Tag Archives | NaMoPaiMo

NaMoPaiMo – Fixing problems


If you have been following along with the last few posts, it is pretty clear that underglazing requires a logical, methodical approach. The other side of this is that it also takes away a lot of the control that artists who favor this way of working tend to want. It turns out that my Hackney project has provided a good example of the kind of curve that gets thrown at ceramic artists from time to time.

Bone china horses like the Hackney offer some real advantages to an underglaze artist, most notably the fact that most colors are pretty durable after they are fired. (This is very much not true when working on earthenware.) But they also come with some downsides, and one of those is that the clay will sometimes randomly resist color or glaze. I had already dealt with one tiny spot on the base that resisted glaze on the first fire. That was easily fixed by adding glaze to the spot for the next firing. The next instance, however, was a bit more of a problem, because the spot was on the barrel in the middle of what should have been a pretty even golden tone. As anyone who has ever airbrushed with gradual building layers knows, flaws like this are really difficult to fix. With underglazes, that is even more so because you really cannot tell when an area is truly opaque even when all the color is raw. When the surface is fired (and therefor its mature color) and you are hitting it again with raw, chalky color, it is an even bigger challenge.

So how do you salvage this?

The first thing I chose to do is create a back-up in case my calculations are wrong. Remember I won’t know if I have fixed this problem until the whole area is under impervious glaze. To allow for that, I needed the area that resisted to have an outline like a bleach spot in the coat. That is what is pictured in the photo at the top of this post. This is something that does happen in real horses, and fortunately for me they are particularly common in the area where my resist spot occurred. I just needed to give the spot a more natural outline and feather the edges. That is more realistic for a bleach spot and also gives me a better chance that the repair will blend. That is my preference, after all—that the area not look any different from the rest of the belly. This is just my back-up plan if that does not work.

This situation also made an issue where I had been wavering easier to decide. This is the horse that went into the kiln yesterday.


As I said in the previous post, I was erring on the side of a paler tone for fear of losing too much of the dappling. What I worried about was the depth of color on the lightest areas of the coat. Because the tan goes on so chalky, there is a lot more guesswork to the final color in those areas. I knew that I might want to hit them again and do another firing before adding the gloss. I was going to wait and see what the fired color looked like and decide. Having an unexpected resist spot made that decision easy. To have any hope of getting that spot blended into the barrel, the color in the lightest parts of the coat was going to have to be deeper.

So I am once again waiting for the horse to cool in the kiln. Today I will find out if he has a bleach spot like the one above, or if he just has a deeper golden coloring in the palest parts of his coat. Either way, he is scheduled to have his final glaze firing tonight, so tomorrow I will share the finished horse.

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NaMoPaiMo – Making the Hackney bay


When I started this series, I had just begun to add the color that will turn my Hackney from something that looks a bit like a rose grey to dappled bay. In the photo above, I’ve added the tan to the lightest areas of the coat – the poll, belly and chest. Tan colors in raw (unfired) underglaze tend to be less true to their final color—they are pale and chalky when dry—so it is hard to see in this photo except where it has begun to cover the black braids. That color will sink under the black during the final clear gloss firing.

But it will look like I have ruined all that work of dappling and detailing work for the rest of the process.

After the tan was applied, I hit most of the horse with red-brown. This is the tricky part, because I have to use just enough of this color to avoid getting a faded pink tone (red tones fade easily) but not so much that it turns opaque and I lose my dappling and end up with an oddly flat, muddy brown model. Neither outcome would be evident until the horse was fully fired, and by that point it would be too late!


Here he is with the golds and reds applied. If you look closely at his barrel where his dapples are most pronounced, you can still see them faintly underneath. I have chosen to err on the side of “muted red” rather than “flat and muddy”. After I fire this, I’ll have one last chance to double-check before I take a leap of faith.


Here I have cleaned the overspray from his pattern. Adding the gloss glaze earlier made this a lot easier. I’ve also used a damp brush to lift some of the overspray from the hocks, braids and eyes. Because those areas are black or nearly black, it is likely that the overspray would sink completely underneath, but it never hurts to play it safe. That is especially true with the reddish underglaze I have chosen, because it is a strong color. The trade-off for the fact that it is less prone to fading during fire is that a heavy coat of it might not sink properly.

This is how he looked last night when he went into the kiln. Presently he is cooling there: glaze fires usually take 4 hours to complete and then 8 hours to cool. If all goes well, he will get his final gloss firing tonight and I’ll have a new shiny pony tomorrow.


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