What is glaze?
Glaze is glass! Each glaze is a carefully proportioned mixture of raw materials suspended in water. When a glazed pot is heated in the kiln, these materials melt and undergo a chemical change, becoming glass. Notice that each glaze is a completely different color in its liquid form than what it becomes after firing.
Steps for glazing
First, make sure you handle your bisqueware gently. Even though bisque fired pots feel hard, they are still somewhat fragile. Don’t pick up a bowl by the rim, or a mug by the handle, etc. Make sure you have clean hands, as anything oily on your hands like lotion can transfer to your pot and prevent glaze from adhering properly.
The basic steps for glazing are 1) wax, 2) water, 3) dip, and 4) wipe.
Since glaze melts in the kiln and turns into glass, a glazed surface will fuse to anything it is touching. Because of this, the bottoms of our pots cannot have any glaze on them or they will stick to the kiln shelf. Additionally, we don’t want any glaze on the sides of our pots going up about 1/4” (for non-runny glazes) to 1/2” or more (for runny glazes) to account for running. You can paint a thin layer of wax resist on the bottom and lower edge of your pot to prevent glaze from coating those areas. Allow the wax to dry for 10-15 minutes before proceeding. Note: Waxing the bottoms of your pots is optional; more on that in step 4.
With a clean and lightly damp sponge, wipe the inside and outside of your pot. You only need to wipe each area once. This does two things: First, it removes any dust that might be on your pot; a dusty pot won’t accept glaze very well. Second, adding a bit of moisture to our pots, which are very porous at this stage, helps them soak up the right amount of glaze.
Glaze is applied by dipping your pot into a bucket of glaze, but before doing that you need to mix the glaze very, very well. The ingredients in a glaze will settle at the bottom of the bucket over time; mixing the glaze you’re using will ensure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Use a clean whisk to avoid contamination, and mix your glaze very well. Once it feels like it’s perfectly mixed, mix it a bit more! Make sure there isn’t any glaze gunk hiding in the corner where the bottom of the bucket meets the side.
How long you hold your pot in the bucket of glaze will determine how thick or thin your glaze application is. A quicker dip is a thinner application, and a longer dip is a thicker application. Every glaze is a little different, but as a general rule of thumb, aim for a 2-3 second dip, or check the information printed on the glaze bucket for guidance. Take care not to dip for too long, because a glaze that is too thick can run even if it is not normally runny.
Hold your pot firmly – but not so hard that you crack your pot – with a clean pair of tongs. Completely submerge your pot in the glaze, count to 2 or 3, and remove it. Try to have the side of the pot that goes into the glaze first be the part that comes out first, as this will give you a more even application of glaze.
When you lift your pot out, hover over the bucket for a few moments to let drips run off and to give the glaze a moment to start drying. In most cases, you can see the glaze start to dry right away. Once it is no longer dripping wet, you can carefully set it on the table. Be careful not to touch your pot until the glaze is dry enough not to smear or smudge.
Put the lid back on the bucket of glaze as soon as you can. Water will evaporate from an uncovered glaze over time, which will affect the formula and results. Keeping the lids on the buckets also helps prevent accidental contamination.
If you waxed the bottom of your pot, there will still be some beads of glaze on the waxed areas. Take a damp sponge and wipe any glaze that stuck to the bottom of your pot. If you skipped the waxing step, scrape the glaze off the bottom of your pot with a metal rib and then use a damp sponge to wipe away all of the glaze that’s on the bottom of your pot, plus any glaze going up the sides at least 1/4” from the bottom. Once everything is wiped away, rinse out your sponge and wipe everything once more to make sure there isn’t any residue. Feel free to have any of our teachers or team members to double check your pots to make sure you’ve removed enough glaze from the lower edges of you pots.
If you notice small air bubbles or other inconsistencies in your glaze, you can smooth those out by rubbing them with your finger. Bigger blemishes, such as the crater that is sometimes left by the tongs, can be patched up by dipping your finger in the glaze and adding a drop to that spot.
Once your piece is glazed, put it on the rack for glazed items. Beginning wheel students and hand building students should put their pots on the rack labelled “beginning glaze.”
Glazing can get messy! Please make sure you’ve cleaned up any tools you’ve used and check your area (table, floor, etc.) for drips of glaze you’ve left behind.
Make sure you’ve cleaned all of the following if applicable:
- Paint brushes you’ve used for wax can be washed out with water (you might need a bit of soap if the brush is really waxy or has dried out).
- Put the bucket(s) of glaze you used back so they’re arranged neatly
Don’t forget the campsite rule! Leave everything in as good – if not better – shape when you leave as it was when you arrived. If you see an abandoned tool, take a few seconds to wash it. If the table needs to be wiped off, it only takes a moment. Help us keep the studio clean and pleasant.
One final note: Never add water to a glaze! This alters the formula and will affect how a glaze looks. Some glazes are thicker or thinner than others; they’re not all going to be the same consistency. If something seems off with a glaze to you, ask one of the staff members, but please never add water or otherwise alter a glaze yourself.