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Five Ways to Apply Glazes

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Once a pot is ready to be glazed, how do you get the glaze onto it? Here are the most commonly used ways to apply glazes to pottery.

Dip Pots into Glaze

Pot being dipped into glaze, showing proper positioning.
Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

This sounds exactly like what it is; in this glazing method the pottery is immersed in the glaze batch for about three seconds. Dipping pottery into fluid glaze, about the consistency of heavy cream, is one of the fastest ways to glaze large quantities of pottery. It also is a very good method to ensure an even glaze coat.

When dip glazing, it is almost always a very good idea to make certain you have prepared your pots well, including giving their bottoms a good coating of wax resist.

Pour Glaze In and On

Pouring glazes into and out of pots is a fast method of glazing interiors.
Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

Glazes for pouring need to be the same consistency as dipping glazes and is often done in conjunction with dipping.

To glaze interiors, glazes can be quickly poured into a pot, left three seconds, then quickly poured back into the glaze bucket. Any excess glaze can be flicked off using a sharp rotation of the wrist while keeping the pot's rim parallel to the floor, it can be wiped off with a sponge or towel, or it can be left as it is, for its decorative effect.

Glazes can also be poured over the outside surfaces of a pot. This is often done to apply a thinner coat of glaze over the top of a base layer of glaze. The two glazes will interact, at least to some degree, often resulting in a more interesting glaze with greater visual depth.

Brush Glaze On

Brushes can be used to apply glazes to pottery.
Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

Many ready-to-use glazes are formulated to work well when applied with a brush. These glazes tend to be much thicker in consistency than dipping and pouring glazes. Some are a little less fluid than heavy cream, while others are so thick as to be pudding-like.

Commercial glazes are made to smooth out most brush marks, so if you want to use the brush marks as part of your pottery's decoration, make certain to noticeably vary the thickness of the glaze coat as you apply it.

The best brushes for this job tend to be the synthetic sables. They are both durable and can spring back from such use. Brushes Used in Pottery has more information on brush selection and care.

Sponge Glaze On

Sponges are a useful pottery tool, including their use in applying glazes to pottery.
Photo © 2008 Beth E Peterson

Sponges can be used at nearly every step of pottery creation, including glaze application. For basic glaze coat application, use a fine-textured pottery sponge, either synthetic or natural. For applying a decorative second layer of contrasting glaze, you may want to use a very porous sponge. The texture of the sponge can translate into very interesting patterns in the fired glaze.

Spray Glaze On

Artist using an airbrush to apply pigment.
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for Virgin Mobile USA

Spray guns and airbrushes are two tools which potters use to spray glazes onto their pottery. Care should be taken on several counts when considering this option:

  • The nozzles used must be large enough to handle glaze particles without gumming up and becoming plugged,
  • spraying glazes should always be done in a spray booth with adequate ventilation, and
  • a well-maintained dual-cartridge respirator which is NIOSH/MSHA approved should always be worn whenever spraying any ceramic materials, including glazes. (The artist in the photo is applying non-toxic pigment, not ceramic materials.)

More on Pottery Safety:

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  6. Apply Glazes to Pottery in Five Ways - Five Ways to Apply Pottery Glazes

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