I understand the desire to "create from scratch." I love to cook-really cook. Purchasing a meal-in-a-box kit just doesn't appeal to me. I hate to follow a recipe because it stifles my creativity. I inherited this from my father, who had to add ingredients to a can of pizza sauce, just to make it unique. Recently, I received an e-mail from a major food manufacturer promoting a week of meals made from a single bag of groceries. Skeptical, I tried it and was amazed that I could create the same great meals and still experience the joy of cooking by purchasing grated cheese and pre-cooked chicken. I got the same great homemade results, with semi-homemade ingredients.
The semi-homemade approach of using commercial fired ceramic products can provide you with consistent, high-quality results and save you time as well-time that you can spend on producing your work of art. Scott Causey, a renowned ceramic artist known for his glazing techniques, supports the use of commercial fired products in his work. "As a ceramic artist who had made my own glazes for years, I discovered commercial glazes in my senior year of art school," said Causey. "This was an exciting new medium for me, and I anxiously began trying them all. I made my choices based on test tiles supplied by each glaze company represented in my local craft store. After only a few years, my shelves stood witness to the glaze brand that I knew delivered the best color quality, firing constancy and the widest spectrum of colors to select from."
Commercial underglazes, glazes and overglazes provide consistent results-results that any pottery producer can be proud of.
As their name implies, underglazes are ceramic colors that are used under a glaze. The two main types of underglazes are translucent and opaque.
Translucent underglazes are used for brushwork and have a definite see-through quality. Normally, one color will show through another applied over it.
Opaque underglazes are used for solid-color coverage over large and small areas. Normally, if one color is applied over another, the base color will not show through.
If necessary, underglazes are thinned with water or a thinning product before application. Most decorating techniques will specify the consistency to which the underglaze colors should be thinned. For normal applications, most underglazes are in a ready-to-use consistency, which is often expressed in terms of everyday dairy products such as thin milk, milk, light cream, cream, and so on. The exception is "wash," which is a watercolorist's term applied to underglazes with a very watery consistency.
Because ceramic glazes are available in a variety of colors and surface textures, and since the fired finish is so dramatically different in appearance from the liquid glaze, it is helpful to understand the characteristics of each glaze. Glazes are commonly defined by how much color and transparency they have and fall into one of four categories: opaque, semi-opaque, transparent (colored) and clear.
Opaque glazes are generally used for solid-color coverage on smooth or slightly detailed bisque ware. Generally, underglazes are not used with opaque glazes because only the darkest colors will show through the glaze.
Semi-opaque glazes are best used for solid-color coverage over detailed bisque ware. Some dark underglazes will show under semi-opaque glazes, however, so testing is recommended. If using a semi-opaque glaze on smooth bisque ware, use extra care in application to avoid streaking.
Transparent (colored) glazes are ideal over underglazes to highlight and add an accent of color. Dark glazes might alter the underglaze color, while light-colored glazes will not. Transparent colors are also recommended for single-color application over highly detailed bisque ware, as the color will tend to be intense in the crevices (self-antiquing).
Clear glazes contain no color and produce a clear finish when applied to straight bisque. Underglazes have no color distortion, making clear glazes a wonderful choice to seal and beautify detailed underglaze work.
Metallics are real precious metals applied to fired glazed ware as the final finish. They are opaque with the brilliance of 22-karat yellow gold or white gold. Their appearance is determined by the glaze on which the metallic is applied. On a gloss glaze, the metallic will be shiny; on a matte glaze, the metallic will be dull. Metallic overglazes are normally applied over a fired glaze but can also be applied to unglazed high-fired porcelain or stoneware bisque.
Lusters are metallic compounds that are applied as a final finish on fired glazed ware and become iridescent after firing. They are translucent with a lustrous iridescence; their appearance is determined by the glaze that the luster is applied over (gloss glaze, shiny luster; matte glaze, dull luster).
China Paints are mineral colors applied in design or as detailing over fired glazed ware.
Success with overglazes depends on correct preparation of the ware to which they will be applied. First, fire the greenware to witness cone 04, then glaze and fire the pieces to witness cone 06. Next, clean the surface of the ware by buffing with soft cloth or by wiping it with a lint-free cloth moistened with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to remove hand grease and dirt. (Be sure ware is dry before applying overglazes.) After the ware has been cleaned, avoid excessive handling. When using overglazes, work in a clean, dust-free area with good ventilation. Your hands must be free of all oils, hand lotion and moisture.
Choose any brush with soft hair that will produce the coverage or strokes you wish to achieve. Brushes used to apply overglazes should be cleaned with an overglaze cleaner and wiped on a paper towel. Brushes must be thoroughly dry before use, and each brush should be reserved for exclusive use with only one overglaze to prevent contamination.