October 6, 2023

Utilizing Underglaze on Bisqueware

Techniques for applying underglazes to bisquefired clay. Learn how bisque preparation, underglaze formulas, and firing methods allow vibrant underglaze designs

Underglaze pottery

Underglazes, widely known for their use on raw clay, hold untapped potential for adding vibrancy and intricate details to bisqueware. Applying these rich colors to bisque-fired pieces prior to glazing is an artistic strategy that can result in delightful patterns and engaging textures. These visuals interact beautifully with the overlaying glazes, giving your ceramics a unique aesthetic charm.

Appreciating the Advantages: Underglazes on Bisque

Deciding to venture into the realm of applying underglazes to bisque has numerous benefits that extend beyond what you can achieve with raw clay:

  • Neutral Canvas: Bisqueware provides a neutral, white canvas that lets the true colors of underglaze shine through. This neutrality accentuates the vibrancy of underglazes, lending a visual pop to your creations.
  • No Iron Interference: When underglazes are applied to bisque, there's no iron content from the clay interfering with the colors. This means your desired color palette stays true to your expectations.
  • Detailing and Brushwork: The smooth, crisp canvas that bisqueware provides allows for a high level of detailing and brushwork. This facilitates the creation of intricate designs that would be harder to achieve on raw clay.
  • Contrasting Backdrop: The colors of underglaze stand out sharply against the white backdrop of bisqueware, making your designs more prominent.
  • No Firing Anomalies: Using underglaze on bisqueware eliminates the risk of pinholes or dark speckling that can occur when firing out organics from raw clay.

Simply put, vibrant underglaze colors truly get a chance to take center stage when applied directly to meticulously cleaned and prepared bisque surfaces.

Steps to Successful Underglaze Application on Bisqueware

The process of applying underglaze to bisqueware might require a slight shift in your normal pottery routine. Follow these guidelines to ensure a flawless, vibrant application:

  • Proper Bisque Firing: The key to getting a perfect underglaze application starts with bisque firing your pottery to cone 04-06. This will fully vitrify the clay surface while removing all carbon, thereby preventing any dark speckling from marring your vibrant underglaze colors.
  • Smooth Bisque Surface: Before applying underglaze, it's essential to sand the bisque pieces lightly. This creates a 'tooth' that increases the absorbency of the surface and helps the underglazes bond effectively to the bisque.
  • Cleanliness is Crucial: Underglazes require a contaminant-free surface to adhere properly. Make sure the bisque is thoroughly washed and free of grease and dust before applying underglaze.
  • Application Technique: When applying underglaze, thin coats prevent the colors from overlapping, mixing, or bleeding. This will preserve the sharpness of your design and colors.
  • Firing: A slow, fully mature firing process is needed to develop the colors of your underglaze without burning out the pigment. This patient approach will pay off in the quality of your final piece.

Artists who take the time to skillfully apply vibrant underglaze designs to bisqueware often find this technique offers a new level of creative freedom. Layering colors, creating intricate textures, and experimenting with different designs before the final glaze application can open up new artistic avenues, giving you the power to create truly unique ceramic pieces.

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