Stain / Antique Effect on Greenware using Underglaze

Here’s another technique that uses commercial underglazes, staining aka antique effect.

My staining video (click the Youtube icon to open a new window and view larger):

-Leather hard clay tile and/or pendants cut from 1/4” thick slab, cleaned up and prepped (hole or wire in pendant).
-Incising tools such as Kempers ball-tipped tools, wire stylus, or a pencil will do. You can use just about any blunt-tipped tool for incision.
-Commercial underglaze, any color (in contrast to clay color works best)
-Small container to mix underglaze with water
-Brushes to paint on stain, in size appropriate to the piece.
-Metal rib

Step 1:
Incise a design into leather-hard pieces (tile or pendants in my case). The lines need to be deep enough to hold the stain during the scrape-back step; 1/32” to 1/16” seems to hold the color well. The design can be freehand or an image that you download, print, and then transfer onto the moist clay by laying it down and then rubbing over it gently with a damp sponge. The laser ink will transfer to the clay to give you guidelines for incision, and then burn off in the first firing.

Step 2:
Allow the incised piece to dry to bone-dry stage. This may take a day or two depending on how thick/large your piece is.

Step  3:
In a small container, mix underglaze and water at an approximately 50:50 ratio. The underglaze will be thinner than milk; a very watery consistency.

Step 4:
Brush the stain over the bone-dry pieces. The stain will absorb into the clay immediately. To avoid over-saturating the clay with liquid, brush the stain on in rather quick strokes. Just one coat will do.

Step 5:
Use the straight edge of a metal rib to gently begin scraping back the stain, revealing the incised design below. I usually start at the center and work my way out, rotating the piece as I go.

Step 6: Bisque fire (I’m using earthenware so I bisque to cone 04)

Step 7: Glaze fire (mine are at cone 05). I used Amaco clear and Duncan Envsion transparent colored glazes for the demo pieces (Grape and Peacock).

I use underglazes for this technique, but Mason Stains may also be used. Here is a PDF from Georgie’s for using Mason Stains, with recipes.

It’s also possible to apply this technique to bisque that has some texture to it. Stain it the same way as greenware, but instead of using a metal rib to scrape back the excess, use a newspaper or damp sponge. The first layer of glaze is sponged on to keep the stain from smearing; some people fire their pieces in between the underglaze/stain application and the glaze application to avoid smearing.

And that wraps up the techniques for this slab! My next post will be about bisque and glaze firing in a computer-controlled test kiln. The controller makes basic cone firings very simple, just a couple of button presses and it’s ready to go.

After that, I’m deciding which techniques to cover in my next slab series…for now I’m leaning towards slip trailing, glaze scraping, and wax resist, but that may change by the time I get around to filming it.

Thanks for joining me, I hope that you’ll come back for the next slab. In the meantime, get your hands in some clay and start making those wonderful creations that have been knocking around inside your head for awhile now…you can do it!

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