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I have finally started using my kiln. My bisque firing (cone 04) was a complete success, which was a relief. I'm feeling a little nervous about glazing. So I wondered what sort of set up people had to help things go smoothly and not be a messy disaster. And also whether you use kiln wash, cookies, etc. when firing. And if you had any absolutely essential tips. I have tried looking online, but thought it would make sense to ask here. I greatly appreciate people giving their time to answer my silly novice questions.

So far, I have purchased a few pre-made pots of colours in little pints as I did not feel confident enough to make my own yet, even if this is probably an expensive and limited option (the clay and glazes are suitable for cone 5-6). I wondered if it was a mistake buying small amounts of different glazes, as I suspect this means I will have to brush on the glaze rather than dip or pour, do you think this will be problematic? All my items are hand sculpted and most are probably more complex items to glaze evenly. I didn't think to make many test items and just have one bowl to test my glaze application, but I think I'll manage to learn enough from that (I could make more, but I'm so incredibly slow that I should probably just get on with what I have at the moment).

I purchased my glazes on dickblick, do you have any favourite sites? (I'm having trouble finding a suitable autumnal orange for a pumpkin candle holder).

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@KilnCat like with most things in the clay/glaze/firing world, you have to find what works for you.  I have shifted my habits a great deal since I set up my own studio 9 years ago.  I started with spraying most of my glazes and now I dip most things.  I know that I need to have long spaces to spread out, and I like to cover my tables with newspaper or newsprint in order to minimize my mess.  A lot depends on your space, and how you are glazing.  (my space is long and narrow) A friend of mine comes out to glaze her pots occasionally and I set up a table and she has all her pints of glaze and brushes and it works fine for her.  She sits in one place and brushes on her glazes.  I stand and walk between the buckets of glaze and where I am placing the pots.  I use cookies (that have kiln wash on them) but many people kiln wash their shelves.  Everyone has a preference.

My favorite sites to purchase supplies are the ones that offer free shipping or that I know are reliable as far as shipping.  There are many out there.  Euclids, Ceramic Shop, Bailey's, Sheffields, and on and on.  If I order from Sheffields I know that it will take 2 weeks.  If my friend in Honolulu orders from Sheffields, she gets her supplies in a week. Amazon has some supplies as well.  If you are close to a local shop, that is usually the best.  You can ask questions and see in person samples.  

Sometimes I find that my test pieces are pots that I wanted to explore the glaze combos or surface design or textures.  Every so often I mess up a handle on a mug or trim through a pot, those things become testers.  And I was told years ago, there are no precious pots.  I took that to heart and even with failures, I get new information.  Starting with brushing on your glazes will help you make decisions on your color palette, the shape of pots that you like, without investing money in dry ingredients and buckets and storage containers and  and....

So glad you found us!!!


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Well into my fourth year, just went through a bag of yet another clay, which I like, and, as the supplier's shop is right along the way to our son's house, very likely it will become a staple. It's an off white. I'd tried their very white stoneware, which I won't buy again.
Of the five clays I bought in my first "big" load, the red and buff worked well for me, however, I haven't got back to working in red, and the buff clay changed - it's not the same - for the clear glaze that had worked so well now crazes - just re-confirmed in side by side test.
I still really like the off white I've been using from a second supplier (shop is on the way to our niece's).
All that to say it may take some trials to find the clay(s) you like and that work for you.

I went with choosing a few recipes and mixing from scratch, having bought fifty pound sacks of common ingredients - silica, epk, feldspar, etc., and smaller amounts of other stuff. I've several buckets of glaze suitable for non functional ware, hmmm, which may never get used. However, I'm really happy with several glazes that are working very well for me. Among the positives o' the mix from scratch approach: there's potential to produce more glaze much more cheaply; one may adjust the recipe, that is, the ratio of base ingredients, but also the specific gravity and small additions to influence thixotropy; one may begin to learn about glazes - so much to learn; one may have a "look" (or several looks) that no one else in the area has.

On the other hand, several potters in the neighborhood use pre-made glazes and are quite happy with immediate results, much less storage, ease of application, etc.

As for your question, I've bought underglazes (Speedball) from Blick - they were having a rad sale at the time; you may find the color you're looking for in an underglaze (Saffron Yellow, maybe?). I've also ordered from US Pigment (good prices on many things, reasonable shipping, great service), Aardvark Clay, IMCO, Clay Planet, and a few others. Alas, there is no supplier anywhere near us, however, I do look to take advantage of opportunities, when they arise, to save on shipping costs. If you have suppliers nearby, you might save on the considerable costs of shipping!!

Other thoughts:

Adjusting how wet the glaze is - solids to water ratio (aka specific gravity) - and adjusting how a glaze gels (aka thixotropy), these have been as important to my glazing success and enjoyment as anything. See Thixotropy (digitalfire.com)How to Gel a Ceramic Glaze - YouTube, see also Sue McLeod's take on the subject.

Practice/repetition have also been key to glazing success and enjoyment - there's much less splash and spatter then there used to be. Some simple tools also help, e.g. kitchen whisk (stir that glaze very often! stir it again!!), ladle (that pours well), ear syringe or turkey baster (so handy), purpose cut pieces of sponge (to replace that hockey puck sponge that comes with the tool kit), a selection of cheap-ish brushes, a dampened finger (great tool, that), sharp razor knife, wax resist (and dedicated wax resists brush(es) ), two buckets for cleanup water, large clean up sponge (keep it clean - dry glaze makes dust), mop and bucket.

I use tape quite a bit, 3/4" masking tape. In another life, I painted new construction, hence, lots of practice using tape.

Label lids and the containers they go to. Keep notes - surprising what's hard to remember after a few months.

Figure out a way to indicate which clay and which glaze (when it's not immediately clear, e.g. clear glazes, white clays, buff clays, etc.); make a note of it. 


Have a bisque load to glaze this week, will add anything else that comes to mind...


Edited by Hulk
more tools and such
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Thank you for the input.

For clay, I've only used one type so far; a buff clay with grog. It worked out pretty much perfectly for sculpting and the bisque. Although I might try without grog next time for a smoother finish.  

I assume a lot of this craft is down to trial, error and experimentation. I just tend to overthink and find it daunting to get started (though I m usually fine once I get going). I expect I may work on my own glazes eventually, so it's good to think ahead, and it's useful to get glimpses into what other people do. Although currently I'm mostly curious about how people prepare for applying glaze, how they glaze, etc, and if applying with a brush for a whole piece can look okay if you take care to get it right, or if it's going to end up streaky and uneven. I assume you must mostly dip and pour, utilising the ladle. I will be sure to have all those tools handy before I start and keep things clean. Thanks again.

Edited by KilnCat
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Thank you for your input.

I was fairly sure that everyone would develop their own preferences and way of doing things over time, and I am sure I will too once I get going. I tend to just over-think before I get started. I also make the terrible mistake of making every pot precious, and care too much about getting them just right (especially for items that are more sculpture than houseware). Still, I suspect that feeling will improve over time at least, as I learn techniques and find it easier to make or re-make things and not get sentimental over a piece of clay.

Since I don't have a huge amount of space (read as: I will probably annoy my husband by taking up much more space than I already do), painting each one will hopefully work out okay for me; it's good to know that others do use this method. I may move on to dipping and mixing my own eventually though, as it does sound preferable, and potentially fun.

It's good to know that a lot of these details don't matter much more than preference. But it's reassuring to hear what people prefer or learned from.

I will definitely bear those sites in mind, thank you. 

Lots of good info there. Thanks again.

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