Glazing, the elephant in the room

Once a session I give a long glaze lecture to my class at Choplet. I say a lecture, because that’s really what I do. I don’t just show how to stir glaze and dip pieces I really try to breakdown how to be successful with glazing. That’s what I want to go over with you today. How to glaze successfully

So what I want to do is take my 1 hour plus lecture and distill it down to the most important bits to help you glaze better.

Here we go:

Don’t rush! If  you think you can just run into the studio, particularly if its a communal one and glaze a couple of things quickly, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. You should figure that to glaze a piece well, you need at least 20 min to half an hour. That’s to prep the piece, pick the glaze, glaze, clean it and put it in to be fired. That’s not counting chit chat and other distractions.

If you have multiple pieces to glaze, well…clear your afternoon.

Keep a notebook. This is important not just so you remember your successes, but so you don’t repeat your failures. A notebook can save you a lot of heart break.

Clean the piece.  Its like painting a wall, you should always wash it before you paint it. (If you didn’t know, you’re welcome.) Get all the dirt and dust off of it and it will take the glaze much better. If you want to wash them, do it at least a day before you plan to glaze so it can dry properly. You could also use a brush or compressed air can, just be careful of the dust.

Pick your glazes ahead of time and have back ups. Don’t make decisions while you glaze, plan ahead. This will save you time. Look at the glaze board and pick what you like. Always have back up choices when you’re in a communal studio. There is never a guarantee that there is enough of the glaze you want.

Wax the bottoms. I know some potters are against using wax because of fumes coming from the kiln. My feeling is, no one should be in a kiln room for an extended period of time while the kiln is firing. Between the heat and fumes coming off of the glazes its just never a goo idea. That being said, wax is wonderful and will save your arms from heavy scrubbing. I highly recommend it.

Make sure to coat all areas that will touch the kiln shelf and to wipe the glaze off after applying glaze. Wax helps, but its not magic. There will still be glaze on the piece if you don’t wipe it off.


K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. This is where a lot of people get into trouble, picking glazes, doing combinations and how they dip. So lets call this a sub category:
– Always check the thickness of the glaze after stirring
– If its really thick tell the studio owner or a technician, let them add water if it is necessary.
– Glaze that is at the right thickness you should dip in and out. If its a little thin, 5 seconds, really thin 10 to 15 seconds.

– When doing combinations, don’t put a shiny, glossy glaze over another. That guarantees it will run down on to the kiln shelf.
– Keep the shape of your piece in mind. If its straight walled glaze has a higher chance of running down onto the shelf then if the piece is bulbous.
-If you want to do a glaze combo on the outside, do the second glaze around the rim or no more than half way down the side of the piece. Doing to full dips, in 2 glazes is just asking for trouble.
– Go as crazy as you want on the inside of the piece. The worst that can happen is that it pools on the inside. It won’t get stuck to a kiln shelf and you won’t have to grind.
-Glaze colors aren’t like the color wheel. Remember this is applied chemistry at 2100 degrees, red plus blue will probably not get you purple.
-Ask for help,if you’re not certain about a combo ask a teacher or tech. If you like a combo that you see, ask the person who did it.
-Don’t underestimate white. People love it. Its clean and the combos are usually very predictable.

Aesthetic options There are a lot of things you can play around with when it comes to glazes. I like to do my combos around the rim. That way I know I have very little chance of it running. I also like to apply drips. It gets you the aesthetic value of a glaze combination, but with much more control.

If you’re glazing plates or bowls, anything someone will eat out of I recommend light colors and whites. They are more appealing to the eye and have less heavy metals to them. Also people don’t like eating out of blue. You can do a quick google search on colors and appetite.

Finally, if you have a lot to glaze, glaze in batches and make a set. So if its a lot of bowls, mugs, plates etc…Don’t look at each piece and try and figure out what each one is saying. Instead pick a set combo and do everything in it. You’ll be amazed how that frees you up mentally.

Well that’s about everything, hopefully this will help make your glazing less stressful and more enjoyable.

Till then, get into the studio and make something!

Questions on the technique, email me at, like what I’m doing feel free to shop my Etsy store

2 Responses to “Glazing, the elephant in the room”
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  1. […] last weeks post I gave simple and direct guidelines on how to glaze. Following, them should solve a lot of basic glaze problems as well as set you on a path for […]


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