Welcome to a world of colour, the glazed kind

Glazing is one of the most frustrating aspects of making pottery, but once mastered it is also one of the most rewarding. Ultimately it is necessary to use metal oxides, stains, underglaze decoration, commercial or self-made glazes, and in some instances overglaze enamels and lustres in order to give your ceramics colour, depth and complexity. Colour gives pottery an identity that, in many cases, can be even more obvious than the identity achieved through form.
Glaze mixing and testing is complicated and often involves a lot of time and effort. Not everyone has the interest or inclination to delve into the complexities of chemical and mathematical formulae.  Most potters, even those who can mix glazes, use commercial glazes or underglazes to some extent.  What’s more, commercial glazes are also screened for toxicity, which makes them safe ‘liner’ glazes for foods.  The range of commercial glazes grows constantly, adapting to ever-changing trends and offering vibrant new colour selections, a great indicator of what the market likes and an opportunity to be brave and experiment with new colour
Decoration applied beneath a glaze in pottery is known as underglaze. Underglazes can be applied by brushing, pouring, dipping, spraying, sponging – pretty much anything goes. They add colour and depth to your work, and are ideal for detailed decoration.  Another option is to use clay slips or engobes, which are, in fact, ‘runny clays’ with added colouring oxides or commercial stains. Slips are used on the bare clay whilst it is still wet or damp, and their colours bleed into the glaze when fired.
Lastly, potters use what is known as an overglaze enamel or lustre, applied on top of the glaze and then fired at low temperatures. These are generally  used as for decoration..
Personally, I tend to use spirals or texturing as the background for decorations. I either use glazes that emphasize these details, or engobes that are actually integrated in them, and then apply a glaze that will seal the item and make it food safe while giving it an overall colour. I mix all my glazes, some from my own recipes achieved by trial and error, and others from books that I have slightly modified to meet my needs. I choose colours that, I feel, suit my shapes and look equally good on the shelf or on a plate with food. My signature glaze is, of course, my blue glaze, which I use on its own or combined with white. It reminds me of the Mediterranean Sea in spring or at the end of summer, and since I created this one myself, I feel that this colour is me, in a nutshell.

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