Sunday, August 13, 2017

Under Glazing Three-Color Pods: Part 1

pods with turquoise underglaze layer

One of the reasons I'm not a big fan of the process of under glazing my sculpture is that the process takes so long. I use layered underglazes and I realize that using underglazes, and using them this way causes my process to be slow and tedious. Unfortunately, I like the complex and colorful results. 

purple underglaze layer

I have been trying to get a solid start on under glazing a set of six forms. There are three sections with different textures on each form and I want to highlight each section separately with two colors each for a total of 6 colors. The undercoats will be fired for stability, then the top contrasting colors can be added and wiped away. Commercial underglazes require at least three coats applied for even coverage, so that means a total of 9 coats (3 coats each of three colors) before firing. After firing, the subsequent coats will not need to be applied as thickly or as carefully. 

under glazing at the table
During the first round I carefully applied three layers of turquoise on the base level of the whole sculpture, trying to avoid the sprigged sections. After I applied the turquoise three times and wiped away the excess from the sprigs, I applied three coats of purple to the end and three coats of red to each sprig. While I was applying the underglaze, I was careful to apply evenly for full coverage and no overlapping into other sections, but I also needed to be careful to not lose count of how many layers had been applied. Sometimes I could visually distinguish the first and second layer, but after that, all layers look the same.

edges of sprigs before clean-up
With so many sprigs placed in an irregular pattern, it is quite difficult to keep track of which sprigs have gotten a second or third coat of underglaze. What I generally do is draw a pencil line across each sprig (or several sprigs on each section) and apply underglaze until I cannot see any more pencil lines.
pencil lines and wet underglaze
Applying each coat of red took about 40 minutes per pod. I applied the turquoise in my studio but moved to the dining table for the red because the height difference between the chair and the table is more comfortable. On Friday afternoon and Saturday, I underglazed on the couch while watching marathon episodesof season two of The Great Pottery Throwdown.

the cat prefers me to glaze on the couch

Watching, or at least listening to the episodes helped ease the monotony of the process. Ironically, one of the contestants kept having trouble with time. I laughed at her struggles, but reflected that I had spent more time than her just completing the first part of the glazing on three pods. I also kept thinking of my friend Janice during the episodes, especially episode four with the fountains because she would enjoy both the show and trying some of the challenges.

third layer of red (looks a lot like the second)
I had been glazing almost all day long (with a few breaks for laundry, errands, and a game of Bananagrams played Scrabble-style) and I thought I could get all three completely finished before heading out to see The Warehouse Theatre's excellent production of Willy Wonka (it's really good; if you're in Yakima, I highly recommend it).

red and turquoise mostly complete

I was on track to finish before the show when disaster struck. I had just finished the third coat of red on all the sprigs of the last pod. I was going to go back and touch up the turquoise where it had worn off or had a drip or smear of red. I figured the touch up would take 5 or 10 minutes, then I could finish loading the kiln and program it to fire that night.

glazing with a lid as palette

I like to use the lid of the underglaze jar as a palette, especially when doing careful, detail work. I shake the closed jar to get some underglaze on the inside of the lid, then dip a small brush tip into the underglaze on the lid. Instead of dipping into the jar blind, the lid method allows me to get less glaze on the brush and keep the brush and the sculpture cleaner.


I had just screwed the lid back on the red jar when I went to shake the turquoise. Of course, for some reason, I hadn't screwed the lid back on. When I shook the jar, the lid came off, the underglaze came out and splashed on the table, the pod, my shoe, the carpet, the brushes, my daughter's stickers, and pretty much the whole house.

oops ameliorated

By the time I finished wiping off the underglaze from all those surfaces, including the pod, it was time to leave for Willy Wonka so I didn't finish or load the kiln until the next morning. I'm not that bothered by the wiped look, and the plan is to layer more color on top, but I touched up the red with one more layer anyway. Maybe another day I'll try the splash technique and leave the result, but not today.

three fired pods (from earlier)

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