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My pottery is mostly about surface design, and color, color, color. Being a visual artist and painter, it seemed natural that I would focus on surface design and decoration in my ceramic work as well.
Here are some examples of my ceramic surface design and decoration. As you can see, I will even do entire pictures (like the cowboy plate) on my pottery! But I also like to do abstract floral and leaf designs as well.
Detail of surface decoration on a midrange stoneware bowl. I used a "watercolor" to paint this design. (I favor the Amaco brand of moist underglazes).
I always (always) decorate bisqueware, never greenware. I am rather "vigorous" when I am painting on my pottery, greenware would never survive! For sgrafitto on earthenware (and occasionally stoneware) I always cover the entire pot with a base color of Duncan's Cover Coat underglaze. (Or, I sometimes use Laguna's underglazes - they are much cheaper, and of excellent quality). Then, I go over the "base color" (think of it as a colored gesso on a traditional canvas) with my design, building up color and detail with other underglazes. I then use the "sgrafitto technique" (scratching into the still damp underglaze) to get an interesting effect. I will use any tool handy to do the "scratching" sgrafitto technique. Usually, I just use the other end of my smaller paintbrush!
Though it usually is assumed that the kind of bright colors I get are best left for earthenware (lowfire) I have had great luck getting beautiful, vibrant color in midrange highfire (Cone 4-6). I have done extensive glaze testing to see which glazes and underglazes survive the stoneware firing process. I have been pleasantly surprised with how many make it! Usually, some of the softer and more delicate pinks and rose colors don't survive. But a few reds and rose colors survive just fine - it just takes some testing to find out which!
I prefer to fire my earthenware at Cone 05. I think Cone 06 is just a little too cool, and some of the colors aren't as vibrant for some reason. Cone 04 is too hot, often burning out some of the subtle rose and pink colors. (Also, if I bisque at Cone 04, I don't want to glaze fire at that same temperature. It's always wise fire your earthenware a little cooler in glaze than in bisque.) I always use witness cones when glaze firing, always. Some of these earthenware glazes must be fired to at least Cone 06 to be foodsafe - and I don't like to take any chances, I want to make sure the firing went just as planned.
I'm not much of
a fan of mixing my own glazes by hand. I'm just lazy, I guess! I don't
like to deal with all the little bags of "dust" (that's what
I call them) that are the base ingredients to glaze recipes. So - I
rely on commercial glazes and underglazes, so I can concentrate more
on my surface design. For midrange stoneware (I usually do Cone 6 oxidation
in an electric kiln) I prefer Laguna
stoneware glazes. I also have discovered the wonderful line of Cone
5/6 glazes that Georgie's
has to offer. (I especially like Nassau Blue and Celadon.)
And, Amaco has a
great Zinc Free Clear that I use constantly for midrange stoneware.
I looks great over my "watercolor" underglaze technique.
Dick Blick Art Materials - one of my favorite mail order pottery suppliers. They sell Laguna, Duncan, and Amaco brand glazes - both earthenware and stoneware. Dick Blick even offers their own line of glazes (I haven't tested them yet - it's on my list!). Plus, they have potter's wheels, and many other pottery supplies!
All images and graphics © J.R. Dunster 2001 - 2006
This page last updated: July 29, 2004
Much thanks to W. Thompson, for the design of my email graphic!