This guy has sat on my workbench for a while now, waiting for me to return from Idaho and then to finish with the lottery horses. I had to leave him raw because I hadn’t finished roaning him. Underglaze cannot be etched after it is fired. Before firing it’s soft and chalk-like, which makes etching the horse easy. It also makes damaging the finish even easier! Leaving a horse to sit for over a month – and a Lirico no less – is living a bit more dangerously than I like.
Bone china is a little different, though, in that damaged raw underglaze can simply be washed away. Still, the idea of all those hours spent roaning running down the sink with the tap water was almost more unnerving. So I was happy to finally get back to ticking this guy today.
It’s also allowing me to return to experimenting with a puzzle that I have worked on for some time now. What I want is to get in glaze the soft-focus roaning effects that are so easily achieved with cold paint. With cold paint it is possible to lay down transparent layers of white or near-white, so that in the best finish work the roaning is subtle and looks to be part of the coat, rather than scratched off or painted on. Underglaze cannot work this way, since paler colors “sink” below the darker colors after the final glaze is fired. We use this to our advantage when we tint the entire end of the muzzle pink, knowing that any overspray will sink below the dark skinned areas. But when it comes to light-on-dark roaning, it’s a big limitation.
In some of my more recent roaned pieces, like the fall lottery piece Quinn, I started experimenting with scuffing the surface of the underglaze. One of the limitations of etching is that the “hairs” we create are really out of scale. Only using really sharp blades (I go through hundreds upon hundreds of them) and a really light touch helps, as does remembering that the goal is a roaned texture, not actual hair patterns. I still struggle with keeping it soft – with hiding the tool behind the technique – but I think I’m getting closer.
This is the area I worked on this afternoon. Right now about half his back is done and I’m particularly pleased with the texture. After the horse is fully ticked and fired, my plan is to go back again with a darker tint in hopes of setting some of the ticking back into the coat much like I do now with dapples on greys. I can experiment with it once this is all fired, since I can wash it off if it doesn’t work and not bother this layer of work.
But right now, with most of one side still left to tick, the results from that experiment seem a long way off!