Great Techniques I’ve tried – Glaze masking

October 1, 2014 , In: Ceramic Clay, Clay, General, Inspiration, Tutorials

A couple of weeks ago I got a great book in the post on Resist and Masking Techniques by Peter Beard. I’m not going to review the book today, I don’t tend to read books properly, I skip through the pages until something catches my eye, I skim over what I need to know and go and play. But if you like what you see, here’s the front cover so you can get yourself a copy.

Flicking through, the first thing that made me stop and read was a picture from my favourite Raku artists Will & Kate Jacobson. Their work is beautiful!!! They are the creators of a technique called naked Raku, where slip is applied to their pots and carved before firing. This leaves beautiful soft lines where the smoke from reduction stains the bare pot.

The accompanying text explained that to create sharp rather than soft lines in their work, they used watercolour masking fluid… that was all I needed, so I set about making raku clay beads and bisque fired them ready for testing.

I decided I was going to glaze these beads in crackle white rather than using slip, and mask areas to leave the clay bare for firing. When put in the reduction bin, the smoke from the combustive materials would colour them in black.
I dug out my masking fluid and painted the veins in the leaves. 
I found when using it, it was easier to pool fluid and drag it to where you wanted it, rather than the usual dip and paint which left too thin a coating of masking fluid. 
And always looking for a way to use my Cameo for anything I try, I cut a couple of simple designs in vinyl and stuck them on to some of the bisque.
The beads were glazed and while the glaze was still wet, the masks were removed.
This is the result from the vinyl mask.
And this is from the masking fluid.
On first impressions, the vinyl mask left a cleaner line when removed. I think because when removing the painters mask it stretched and flaked the edge of the glaze.
They went in to the kiln and were pulled out at 950oC and transferred to the reduction bin full of straw and sawdust.
After cooling down and cleaning, they were ready for a first look. I’m really pleased with how they turned out.
The smoke did exactly as I’d hoped and really blackened the bare clay. After drying, it turned to a beautiful smokey grey. I’m going to use the vinyl mask in future beads as I like the nice crisp edge to the glaze, and the fact that you can get more detail with the cutter than my splodgy painting!
I’m really excited to keep experimenting with this technique and will be mixing lots of glazes and cutting new designs for more, I also plan to try this out with my commercial glazes in the electric kiln. It’s a really easy technique that gives fantastic results! If you work with ceramics and haven’t already, you should give it a try!
Thanks for reading!

Caroline Dewison

Caroline Dewison is a lifelong addict of anything creative. She settled on ceramic beadmaking 3 years ago and can be found most days at the bottom of her garden playing with mud in her studio. She draws her inspiration from the natural world and wishes there were more hours in the day to explore all the ideas in her sketchbook. You can see more of her work on her blog -
  1. Reply

    Those are so cool!

  2. Reply

    Lovely experiment, with great results

  3. Reply

    I love the curves of nature, so for me, the leaves with the veining are a huge hit. I like the lentil bead with the leaf design as well, and was wondering if it's possible to do any veining in that leaf at any point of the process? Really cool getting to see how you create!

    • Reply

      Thank you! Yes, I can add veins in to the leaf, but I decided to keep it simple for the first experiment as I didn't know if the glaze would run, now I know it doesn't I have plans for some more detailed designs!

  4. Reply

    Would you mind sharing what masking vinyl you used and do you think it would work well on glass? Many thanks.

    • Reply

      Not at all, I use Oracal 751 sign making vinyl, but any 7 year vinyl should give you good results. It works great on glass too!

  5. Reply

    I really need to use my sCameo more often, just no time!! These are very cool!

  6. Reply

    Thank you!!!!

  7. Reply

    Would anyone be willing to sell me a couple of yards, I really don't need a huge role? LOL, it only comes in huge quantities plus I live in Hawaii. Would love to purchase some from someone. Kind Alohas. Patricia

    • Reply

      Do you have a sign maker in your area Patricia? I'm sure they would be happy to sell you some of their offcuts!

  8. Reply

    Great post Caroline. This sounds interesting.

  9. Reply

    These are beautiful, Caroline! I love how both methods turned out for you. The 'smokey grey' is lovely, very soft and subtle. The naked raku made by the Authors of this book are amazing. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  10. Reply

    I read books in much the same way as you! I flip and then stop and pick up the tools and just go! That raku with the images is stunning. I love the idea of the masking fluid. I am trying out new ideas in my own work. It is exciting to have new directions and more tricks up my sleeve! Enjoy the day. Erin

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