How To Glaze Pottery 2021

Before starting the pottery journey, the question arises as to how to glaze pottery at home. There is a possibility for glazing pottery at home. This article is about several ways to glaze pottery with or firing clay without a kiln.

Can you glaze pottery at home?

There are three ways to glaze pottery at home.

  1. Use a glaze-like alternative to ceramic glaze to decorate your pottery.
  2. Use a small domestic pottery kiln that is put to use by hobby potters.
  3. Use such an alternative of firing that does not involve standard pottery kiln.

How To Glaze Pottery

How do you glaze pottery without a kiln?

High temperatures are needed to fire ceramic glazes. Different temperatures are needed to fire different types of glazes. A minimum of 1832F or 1000C is needed to fire most of the ceramic glazes. Those glazes fired to 1832F settle at the lower end of the range of temperature that is required.

Since these ceramic glazes are designed to melt, they need to be fired at such hot temperatures. The hot kiln lets you melt the elements of glazes, and a cool kiln lets you harden the elements. This melting and hardening of kiln elements help form a glassy cover over the surface of the glazed pottery.

Making a Raku kiln

A ceramic glaze can be an excellent way to make it look good. But, it is not the single way out for decorating your pottery to make it look great.

There are other ways to clay glaze pottery at home, even without depending upon the ceramic glaze needs such high temperatures.

‘Cold finishes’ are those pottery finishes that are not fired for just a reason that they do not depend on heat. Listed below are some of the ways to cold finish your glazing pots-

How To Glaze Pottery

Alternatives to Ceramic Pottery Glazes

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint has a wide range of bright colours mixed with an excellent combination as per choice.

One of the best thing about acrylic is that it is challenging. The toughness comes from the plastic quality it is made of.

If the acrylic gets damp, it will not run immediately because it being a little water-resistant.

It is not even waterproof. Therefore, putting a sealer would help preserve the finish and lock the paint in a single place. Matte or gloss varnish, mod podge, or a spray-on acrylic sealer are some of the sealants for acrylic paint.

A sealant helps to protect the acrylic paint and also makes it more water-resistant. This does not mean it would make it 100% waterproof, but it will protect it to some extent. Although with a sealant, a pot painted in this manner should not be used as a mug or vase.

Boot polish and Bronze Powder

Metal powder can be used to give your pot a metallic look. The first step will be to paint the ceramic with a black finish like Indian Ink. Then, a thin layer of boot polish needs to be rubbed over the black surface.

Bronze metallic powder needs to be dusted lightly once the boot polish is hardened but still sticky and wet.

The bronze powder can be easily overdone. For an authentic bronze look, grab the raised edges.

It has a pretty sensitive finish and is best suited for sculptures or pottery pieces that will not be handled much.

Car repair enamel paint

The car repair enamel paint is quite challenging and will not be damaged by being handled. It can give your pottery a bronze, copper, silver, or gold finish as it comes in some good metallic finishes.

Coloured pencils

If you do not wish to go for ceramic glaze paint, then coloured pencils can be taken as an option to make subtle, detailed designs in your pottery.

Clear varnish or gloss art sealant can be applied if you want a gloss finish to your pottery.

Metal effects paint / Patina paint

For a patinated metal effect, painting kits that are designed for this can be bought. They will help to give your pottery an antique metallic look.

For example, this painting kit is made of water-based acrylic paint and contains fundamental metal particles.

After the metal particles oxidize, they give your work a metallic patina effect once applied to your pottery.

For this purpose, a blue or green patina can be used. Also, a rust finish could be chosen for getting an iron look. They would look appealing.

Oxides Washes

Even before glaze firing, potters may use oxide washes and stains. But, the metal oxides that are mixed with water need not be glaze fired. The oxide washes can create a charming effect with textured ceramic surfaces.

One can paint on the wash or dip the piece into it, and further use the sponge to wipe over the ceramic surface.

The oxide wash will help remove the oxides from the high points and leave the colour of the oxide in some textured areas.

Tempera paint also called Poster paint.

An inexpensive water-soluble way to decorate pottery without glazing can be using Tempera or poster paint.

Like acrylics, poster paints can also be mixed and end up in a wide range of bright colours.

After applying the paint, it is recommended to seal it with a paint sealer. If you want a glazed look, use a glossy sealer.

Spray and Canned Enamels

An even fine coating can be achieved by spraying a finish on your pottery and a convincing metal finish using a metallic spray.

Hammerite can be used to give it a metallic effect.

An undercoat used with a metallic spray can be an ideal option because getting spray in the corners and some areas which might be challenging to reach can be challenging. But, there will be no issue if you are using an undercoat, even if the spray does not reach smaller areas.

Another reason is that you may opt for an undercoat that matches the enamel colour.

For example, A top coat of bronze Hammerite with iron oxide wash can help in creating a lustrous metallic effect.

Varnish

A simple coat of varnish can help in a pleasant look if you have used attractive clay to build your pottery pieces. Some clays look attractive even if they are not glazed. Red or white can be one of them.

There can be two options; one might want to leave it ‘unfinished’ or raw. Secondly, a coat of clear varnish may be used to add a clear shine to their raw beauty.

Watercolours

For creating a wash over your pottery piece, watercolours can be used. Underglaze can be done to create attractive designs on your pots.

Wax

Wax is one of the best ways of getting soft lustre on your pots. This will help it look like polished up clay. Multiple waxes are suitable for decorating pottery that serves as an alternative for glazing.

For example, paste wax can be applied to your pot. Then, a heat gun or hair dryer can be used to heat the pot. Once the wax gets warmed up, one may use a cloth to shine it up and then apply another coat. On developing several layers, you will get soft lustre and shine on your piece.

Wood Stain

On unglazed pottery, wood stain can be either applied independently or after application; it can be varnished. It is somewhat similar to oxide wash.

Spray stains made up for craft purposes, and porous surfaces can also be used. One good example of it can be a range of distress stains by Tim Holtz. Both metallic and non-metallic colours are available in the range, which will help look amazing when applied to pottery pieces.

Tips on using non-ceramic glaze finish

Listed below are essential tips if you want to glaze pottery using a non-ceramic glaze alternative.

  1. If you do not want to glaze your pots, decorating those pots that have been fired for the first time, also known as bisqueware, can be a great option. Usually, firing is done twice on pottery. For turning clay into the complex ceramic matter, bisque fire is done on the first instance. Bisque ware is the pottery that has been bisque fired. In the second instance, glaze fire is done.

Non-bisque fired clay is very delicate and will dissolve in water, whereas bisque ware is durable, rugged and therefore non-soluble.

Also, if you do not have access to a kiln for bisque firing pots, you may opt for buying the bisque ware that is ready for decoration.

For example, earthenware bisque pottery is available for sale at Blick Art Materials. It is already bisque fired and is available for decoration either with glaze or some glaze alternative.

  1. Since bisque ware is very absorbent and permeable, it takes water out of paint and other liquids quickly. So, close contact of paint with bisque will make the paint dry out and hard to blend.

Although, a sealer can be applied to the pottery before you paint it to make the bisque less absorbent. It is similar to sealing a plaster wall before painting it.

You can make a sealant yourself. Mix PVA glue with water and paint this on your bisque.

  1. Using glaze alternatives to finish pottery makes it unsafe for food. This signifies that it cannot be used as dinnerware or to drink out of. This is because the surface of the alternatives is permeable. They will either absorb the liquid or discharge the ingredients in your food or drink if used that way.

They also cannot be used as water holding vessels like vases since they are penetrable.

The plastic container is used as a liner to be put inside the pot if you want to use an unglazed pot as a vase.

One more method can be used to make it watertight. A two-part epoxy resin can be applied to the vessel’s inside surface, which helps make the surface watertight.

The epoxy coating by Famowood can be used on rough non-smooth surfaces like bisque ware.

It is highly recommended to test the epoxy resin before using your pottery as a vase. This can be done by filling the sealed vase with water. After this, place the filled vase on a piece of paper and leave it overnight. The following day, if the paper below the vase is damp and wrinkled, seepage can be traced and will prove the testing.

How to glaze pottery with a kiln

There are many alternatives to glazing. But, when it comes to using your pottery for food and drink, ceramic glaze fired in kiln should be used.

Here a list of some option for getting access to a kiln-

Using a pottery firing service

In a study, it is found that people who have kiln are very few. They may be schools, pottery cafes, or local potters. Most of them who own a kiln will help you fire your pottery at a fair price.

All you need to do is, apply a glaze at home to the pottery and take it to the person who owns the kiln. They will fire it and prepare it. You may go and pick it after a few days once it is done thoroughly.

For beginners and unsure how to glaze pottery at home, this one is a good option.

Also, getting your pottery fired by someone else has numerous advantages-

  • Initial expenditure of the kiln is saved.
  • No space to be searched for kiln at home.
  • Good firing would be done to the pottery since experienced expertise is given.
  • Also, the pottery hobby could be thought and worked upon in detail before investing capital in it.

Point to remember-

If you do not have a kiln, either you have to buy bisque ware to glaze or ask the kiln fire service to bisque fire your pottery first.

As already mentioned above, most pottery needs to be bisque before it’s glazed. Some of the experienced potters have switched to single firing pottery. The single firing pottery skips the bisque firing stage.

Single firing, also known as glazing greenware, has its limitations. Glazing bisque ware is recommended for those who are learning to glaze pottery at home.

Bisqueware

Buying a bisqueware is easy and relatively inexpensive. If the main interest is decorating pottery, buying bisque ware can be an ideal option.

All you need to do is make your pots at home and allow them to dry until they are bone dry. After they are dry, take them to the local kiln firing service and explain what is needed as ‘bisque fired’.

On explaining, they will understand what needs to be done. After it is bisque fired, you can collect them, glaze them and take them back for a glaze firing.

Tip 1- 

‘Bone dry’ pottery that is unfired, also known as ‘greenware’, is very delicate and break easily. This article gives a lot of information on transporting greenware safely without getting it damaged while in transit.

Buying a used kiln

Many second-hand kilns are uploaded for sale on websites like eBay or Craigslist. This helps us pick a kiln in a healthy condition, much less than the original cost.

Before buying it on eBay, certain factors need to be kept in mind.

Points to consider 

  • The kilns that plug directly into a domestic socket are smaller in size. The standard domestic socket supplies less power as compared to what is required by other kilns. These kilns need to get wired in by an electrician. It should be listed whether the kilns supply good power, which needs to be considered before buying a second-hand kiln.
  • Kilns tend to fire at varied temperature ranges. Some kilns can fire at lower earthenware temperatures, whereas other kilns can fire at higher stoneware temperatures. The firing range of the second-hand kiln needs to check.
  • Kilns have a lot of heat and are much more prominent on the outside than they are on the inside. You should know the size of the internal chamber. It’s also helpful to make a cardboard mock-up that suits the internal dimensions.
  • Buying a second-hand thing comes with the risk that it might break down. Since those goods are used, they do not have any guarantee. Despite knowing the fact, great deals can be found if kilns are chosen carefully.

Buying a new kiln

If you do not wish to take the risk involved with a second-hand kiln, you may proceed to buy a new one. Buying a new kiln has many advantages.

  • When the new kiln arrives, much support can be derived from the supplier for setting it up.
  • Usually, suppliers find it good to advise on how to use and fire the kiln.
  • All the elements of the kiln are new and operational.
  • The new kiln will be working efficiently and attain the temperature quickly.

There are many reasons to convince one to buy a new kiln. So, it will be considered a fair investment if you are willing to buy a new one. Also, it will make your firing pottery lesson easier if you are a fresher.

The primary factors that should be kept in mind while buying a new kiln are similar to those mentioned for buying a second-hand kiln. These are the essential requirements, its firing temperature firing range, and the internal and external size of the kiln.

Some of the great hobby kilns are available on the market.

The Skutt KMT 614 is an ideal option because it has a good-sized internal chamber 11 by 13 inches. The external size dimensions are not so bulky.

These days, modern kilns are attached and linked up to a smartphone application. With this app, one may check their kiln at any time of the day.

Practical Considerations

Several practical and safety factors are to be considered while using the kiln at home. For instance, they are considering the amount of space.

To be secure, a kiln should have 18 inches of clearance around each side. On firing, the outside surface of the kiln gets hot and will pump out a lot of heat. Remember that nothing combustible should be there within 18 inches of any surface area of the kiln.

Additionally, when the kiln fires pottery, moisture and gases from the clay and glaze may be released. Ventilation should be kept in mind while having different pottery glazing ideas for the home.

What are the four ways to apply glaze?

Pottery can be glazed at home in a few ways. Four main ways that glaze is applied to pottery are-

  • Dipping
  • Pouring
  • Brushing
  • Spraying (airbrushing)

Dipping Glaze

This includes gripping the glaze with tongs and dipping it into a bucket of glaze for a few seconds. If you’re going to dip your pottery, you’ll need to paint wax resist on the pot’s foot first. The waxy coating prevents the glaze from sticking to the pot’s rim.

This is essential because the glaze has glass-forming contents that melt when the glaze is fired. These ingredients have a crucial role in a sealed glazed surface.

If you glaze the underside of the pot, though, the glaze will melt and cling to the kiln. As a result, you must therefore rub the glaze off the base or use the wax resist on the rim.

Dipping your pottery in a glaze makes it quick and easy. It lets an even coat of glaze that does not have brush marks.

One of the disadvantages of dipping glaze is that it takes up a lot of space over more giant glaze buckets. However, glazing pottery at home will not be an issue if you ample space or a garage to perform it.

For instance, hobby potters do not have ample space for glazing at home.

Brushing Glaze

A brushing glaze is such that it is applied to pottery with a brush. They are thicker as compared to dipping glazes. Also, they have a gum that prevents them from sliding off the pot once applied.

Brushing glazes may vary if they are applied with different brushes. Usually, brushing glazes require brushing of 2-3 coats.

The pottery glazing technique with a brush is different from painting a picture with a picture. By brushing glaze, you intend to coat the pot. Application with a larger brush would be ideally suitable.

Mop brushes are considered suitable for glazing because of the soft bristles, which let no mark remain on the glaze. And after you’ve dipped them in the glaze tub, they retain a lot of glazes.

Pouring Glaze

Pouring the glaze over the pottery surface is also a meaningful way to get an even coat of glaze. It is a better alternative than dipping. You may pour the glaze over the pt even if you do not have large buckets of glaze. For vases having narrow necks and getting glaze on to the inside of vases, pouring glaze is a suitable method.

Airbrushing the glaze

Airbrushing glaze means spraying a thin mist of glaze on the pottery. It is also a meaningful way to apply an even coat of glaze. Airbrushing also helps in creating a gradient or decent between two glaze colours.

Compared to other glazing pottery methods at home, they were airbrushing requires several pieces of equipment. An airbrush gun and a spraying booth are required for airbrushing. Spraying booths are those compartments that help to prevent the glaze mist from spreading all over your home. Also, the built-in vents help draw out the excess glaze particles so that no one can inhale them. A respirator is also essential to be worn by you since the airglaze particles left behind will not be inhaled by you and keep you safe.

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Do you need to glaze pottery?

Although adding glaze to a ceramic piece is not needed, it may improve the aesthetic and functional qualities of the fired clay piece. Without being glazed, often clay bodies are not vitreous. Glazes are vitreous by definition. The glaze is applied to a piece in the same way as glass is applied to a piece.

What type of pottery glaze to use?

One needs to choose what type of glaze to put in use. The beginners who want to start pottery glaze at home will go for brushing glaze on their pottery.

There is numerous variety of brushing glazes. They differ from each other concerning colour, texture, and glazed appearance. Also, that glaze should be bought, which is fired at the right temperature for the clay you have.

Low fire vs Mid High fire glazes

A matured pottery glaze is the one that melts in the kiln and forms a glass-like surface. Some glazes melt at lower earthenware temperatures ranging around 1832F.

Other glazes mature at ‘stoneware’ temperatures that range around 2228F. High fire glazes mature at 2372F.

Ideally, a glaze should mature at the same temperature at which the clay matures. Clay also matures when it is fired, just like glazes do. Earthenware clays mature at lower temperatures than stoneware clays. When a clay matures, it reaches its saturation of density.

Glaze/Clay fit applies to how well a glaze is matched to a certain kind of clay. If both glaze and clay do not match each other, there is the possibility of issues coming up like crazing and blistering. Usually, after firing, both of them do not fit each other.

Choosing a pottery glaze

It is solely your decision to decide how your glaze should look like. There are many glazes to choose from. They vary in colour and texture. Transparency and opacity are also essential factors.

By testing the glazes, one gets to know how they look perfect. Testing should be done on a piece of pottery that is not very important. If the results are liked, the same glazing may be done on the final piece of pottery.

How to glaze pottery with a DIY kiln

You can make your DIY kiln if you do not want to buy a pottery kiln.

There are several ways to make your DIY kiln at home. Building a kiln in your back yard is one the most common way.

Raku firing pottery

Raku firing originated from the tradition of firing pottery in Japan. For years, this approach has been adapted. Many potters use kilns constructed from metal containers ranging from garbage cans to shopping trolleys to create raku pottery.

Nowadays, raku firing means a fast way of firing pottery to low temperatures. This method takes around 12 hours to glaze fire pottery in a pottery kiln. A raku kiln can accomplish its target in 30 minutes to an hour.

Usually, raku kilns are fired at around 1832F.

The raku method entails glazing bisque ware and rapidly firing it in a raku kiln. Once the kiln has attained its optimum temperature, the pottery is lifted from the kiln. Since the pottery is hot, long metal tongs are used to lift it. They are known as raku tongs.

After that, the hot pottery is mounted on a flammable material bed and covered with a metal container. These materials include straw, paper, sawdust, etc.

The oxygen around the pottery is reduced to some extent because the flammable material is burning inside a sealed metal container. This helps in creating a ‘reduction’ atmosphere. A unique raku glaze will be produced as a response to the reduction atmosphere. Apart from this, the unglazed parts of the pottery will go black through the process of carbonization.

Raku firing and Bisqueware

Although bisque firing of pottery can be done in a pottery kiln, it would be a long process of around 10 hours to be held in your backyard.

It is suggested to find someone local who can help you in bisque firing even if you do not have a pottery kiln. Once the pots have been bisque, glazing and firing can be done in the DIY raku kiln.

Making a Raku Kiln

There are many ways to make a raku kiln. The most common method is by using insulating ceramic fibre, fill a galvanized steel trash container. Once the kiln has been built, a propane burner torch is used as a heat source.

Raku glazes

Many beautiful raku glazes are available for purchase. It is a crucial way to glaze pottery at home.

The extraordinary thing about the raku glazes is that the same glaze will look different every time it will be fired.

Pit Firing

The oldest and the earliest way that humans used to fire pottery was pit firing.

Pit firing refers to a method in which a hole is dug in the ground and lined with flammable material. This material can be wood, sawdust, leaves and even dung. After this, the pottery is placed on the bed and covered with more such materials.

The flammable substance is ignited. The burning pit can be covered to keep the heat in once the fire has been established. Some metal or piece of earth can be used to cover the pit.

It is a rule that ceramic glaze need not be used while pit firing pottery because the pots are burrowed down in the fire. Materials like wood, dirt and ash stick to the glaze and damage it.

The pots that are blackened on getting fired are such those are put in pits with no finish at all. If, before pit firing, pots are polished, then the blackened surface can turn out to be lustrous.

Barrel Firing

The working of barrel firing is the same as that of pit firing. The only difference is, in-pit firing, a hole is dug in the ground, whereas in barrel firing, a metal barrel is used to contain the burning material.

One advantage of it is that it can be covered with a metallic fitted lid to cover the heat. You should drill holes in the barrel’s bottom and place a vent on top of the lid.

Placing a vent on the top of the lid helps create an upward ventilation system that gives control over the kiln’s temperature. Also, it helps to control the amount of oxygen in the barrel during firing.

Using Saggers when barrel firing

Saggers are often used to hold materials against the pots’ surface when they are being fired. Potters often use saggers during barrel firing. Some oxides, powders, and organic materials can be used to decorate pottery rather than ceramic glaze.

For example, the first step is to polish the pots and then bisque fire them. This helps them with a smooth polished surface.

Since very corrosive and needs to be handled with extreme care, Ferric chloride is painted on to the parts of pottery.

After this, the pot is placed on an aluminium sheet and some other materials like organic materials, corn leaves, etc., around it. Powders and granules like copper carbonate powder and salt can be used for sprinkling. This enhances colours and patterns on its surface.

Another way is to wrap copper wire from kitchen essentials around the pot. This lets you create nice random red lines around the pot surface. Once fired, the aluminium saggar is removed, and this leaves nice colours and patterns on the pot surface.

Tips on DIY kilns

If a low firing method like raku is used for glazing pottery at home, pots will be more decorative instead of functional. This signifies they will not be functional to hold food and drinks as vases which means that the surface is still permeable and has small cracks that can let bacteria in.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to glaze pottery at home with a ceramic kiln or a DIY kiln, an exciting glaze finish can be seen.

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