What Is Wax Resist in Pottery Used For

a picture of pottery with wax resist

Pottery is an undeniably enjoyable but also challenging process. If you’re a beginner in this art form, there are a lot of fun techniques that unfold as you learn the craft. And along the way, one of the things that are bound to be recommended to you by many professionals and enthusiasts is the use of wax resist.

So, what exactly is wax resist in pottery used for? Practically speaking, it can be applied to the bottom of glazed pottery to prevent the glaze from fusing to the shelf of the Kiln during firing. It can also be applied over areas to prevent cracks allowing the clay to dry more slowly and thoroughly. Besides these, wax resists also have decorative purposes.

In this article, we will explore wax resists in detail. We will cover both the practical applications and the decorative applications of this substance in ceramics.

Applying Wax Resists at the Bottom of the Pottery

One of the most common uses of wax-resist in pottery is while glazing and firing the bottom of the pot. Glazing the bottom of pottery is often considered one of the more challenging aspects of pottery, precisely because the glaze applied at the bottom will fuse to the shelf while firing the pot in a kiln. There are several different solutions to this problem, one of which is the application of wax resist.

So, the first and the most common application of wax resist in pottery is that of protection.   

Using Wax Resist to Safely Apply Multiple Coats of Glaze to Your Pottery

If you want to glaze your pottery with two or more coats, you may run into a common problem. The different coats of glaze tend to overlap in certain areas. This is where wax resists find their second use.

If you apply wax resist over a layer of dry glaze before applying the subsequent layer of glaze, you can prevent the problem of overlapping. Follow these steps:

  1. Take the piece you want to glaze, and remove any dust or dirt lingering on its surface.
  2. Don’t apply the wax resist just yet. First, apply a layer or layers of glaze on your pot. Wait for the glaze to dry completely.
  3. Once dry, only then use a brush to gently apply wax resist over the glazed surface. Once again, wait for the wax to dry completely. It is best to wait several hours before proceeding on to the next step.
  4. Once fully dry, you may now apply another layer of glaze to your piece. Repeat steps for as many layers of glaze as you want.

Using Wax Resist for Decorating Your Pottery

Wax resists also come handy when you need to decorate your pottery in an easy and efficient way. It involves applying glaze over the wax and then removing the wax while firing in a kiln. For a good wax resist check out Mr. Wax (amazon). It’s purple so you can see where you put it.

Follow these steps:

  • Take the pot you wish to decorate and rid it of all lingering dust or dirt. Once completely clean, brush the wax resist on to the surface you wish to decorate. It is paramount that you don’t leave any gaps while applying the wax resist, as this could cause a problem of spillage later on when you’re applying the glaze.
  • Once the wax has dried, you may proceed to Glaze. Dip or pour the glaze on your piece.
a picture of a potter glazing with wax resist
  • Wipe off all the excess glaze on the wax resist with a clean damp sponge. Make sure the sponge is the right size for the job.
a picture of a potter wiping off glaze wax resist area
  • Finally, place the decorated piece in a kiln for firing. The fire will burn off the layer of wax and leave you with a design on your pottery.
a picture of a glazed mug with wax resist

Tips for Applying Wax Resist Over Glaze

As we have seen in the previous sections, wax resists can be of great help for many reasons in pottery. Specifically, if you wish to decorate your pottery but don’t feel very sure about your ability to paint right over the surface of the pot, wax resists can come real handy. But unfortunately, for beginners, the reality isn’t often as simple as these steps make them appear.

There are a few problems beginners can run into when working with wax resist. There are, however, some tips that you could follow to ensure you develop a “smooth” relationship with wax resist.

Use a Separate Wax Resist Brush:

A lot of beginners will complain their brushes are ruined because they used it to apply the wax resist. The wax will not totally come off your brush therefore the glaze will not brush on properly. You should always use a separate brush for wax resist only and clean your brushes with hot water after applying wax resist on your pottery.  

Let Your Wax Resist Dry:

As we’ve emphasized multiple times in the previous sections, you should always let the coat of wax-resist dry off completely before proceeding on with whatever it is that you’re doing. Their ability to “resist” depends on whether or not they are dry. So, ideally, you should always make sure your wax resist is dry to the touch. 

If you don’t have that amount of time to spare, you could also use a fan to speed up the process. Just make sure the wax is completely dry before you proceed with the subsequent steps.

Wax Resist is too Thick:

There is one last thing that is worth pointing out to beginners, and that is how much water you need to mix with wax resist to get the right consistency. A coat of thick wax-resist will take a lot longer to dry and can get clumpy. And if you do end up drying a coat of thick wax resist, it will still be harder to carve into.

If your wax resist is too thick for its own good keep adding a small amount of water at a time until you get the right consistency like paint. It should flow on smooth and not too thin.  

Only need One Coat:

Another common mistake among beginners is the application of multiple layers of wax resist, one coat will suffice. You need to remember that applying multiple coats of wax resist won’t help you as the subsequent layers will be resisted by the first coat.

Conclusion

Wax resist finds many uses in pottery. Firstly, it can be used to glaze the underside of pottery, without the problem of the glaze or the ceramic itself sticking to the shelf of the kiln while firing. (Just make sure you wipe the bottom with a clean damp sponge before you put it in the kiln.)

It can also be used to apply multiple coats of glazes without the problem of overlapping. And finally, wax resist can be a great help in decorating your pot, if you aren’t too sure about your painting skills.

There are just a few very important pointers like waiting for the wax to dry completely, using a separate brush, and having the right consistency of wax that beginners need to be mindful of.

With that said, Have some fun with wax resist.

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