Using stains to enhance your work and define texture.
For the last few years I have been working with oxide stains and have enjoyed the results. I mostly use red iron oxide and back wipe it once applied to bring out the highlights in texture patterns I press into the clay on the work. When fired in reduction the oxide goes to a leather looking color that I find appealing. I choose functional forms that can be used with no glaze and simply just stain. Things like shave brush handles, the outside of mugs , bowls, and handles I leave raw at times to stain.
I found early on a problem traditional wet shavers had been that glazed shave bowls were slippery and users would drop them in the sink. This allowed me to work up a design with texture patterns on the outside of the bowls to help with grip and I decided to leave the outside raw to give it a rustic look. I then used red iron oxide to bring out the texture patterns in a more pronounced way. I was able to experiment with many patterns and styles over the years and also save money as I was only glazing half the pot. Red Iron Oxide was far cheaper than any glaze recipe but just took a bit longer to apply.
I also enjoyed seeing the raw clay next to glazed areas and patterned areas in contrast to smooth. I found that lettering looked quite nice when red iron oxide is applied and wiped back leaving the valleys dark and peaks a lighter color.
Applying Stain to the pots.
I put some red iron oxide powder in a dish and add water. The more iron the darker. So at times I may add less or more water depending on the look I might be going for. I then apply the red iron oxide wash with a brush on the bisque ware then back wipe with a sponge. After I am done applying the wash I let the pots dry some and then glaze the other areas last if I decide to glaze at all.
The end result can be quite amazing. I do enjoy seeing the toasty brown color of the clay after opening the gas kiln after the glaze firing. For classes, I give it is possible to have the students make pinch pot planters and have them impress texture patterns in them and later bisque fire and stain them. This can be done for those who wish to only take one class and only return for pickup. In the video here I am loading the kiln full of stained pinch pots done by students. The outcome was quite nice! Below is an example of student work from my last class. The possibilities are endless on how to use stains to make work look interesting and communicate without using glaze. Have you ever used stains? Let me know in the comments!
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