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Glaze Chemistry 101: A Quick Course on How To Make and Test Your Own Custom Ceramic Glazes

Remember, in high school chemistry class when you found yourself thinking, “when will I EVER use this stuff in my life?” (unless, of course, you always dreamed of becoming a chemist). Well, if you became a potter, chances are you have found yourself getting reacquainted with some of the terminology from high school chemistry. If the glaze chemistry bug hasn’t bitten you yet, it probably will eventually as you’ll want to customize your work with a particular glaze surface. Learning how different materials contribute to glazes and clay bodies is very important in expanding your abilities as a ceramic artist.

So, in today’s post, we are presenting a little intro to glaze mixing and testing from Richard Zakin. In it he explains how the glaze making process is easily mastered if you have the right tools, follow an ordered procedure, and take the work seriously. Take it away, Richard. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Ceramic Glaze Making

For most ceramists the first experience of the technical side of ceramics takes place during glaze making. The process of glaze making is easily mastered if you have the right tools, follow an ordered procedure, and take the work seriously.

You Will Need

Looking for some great glaze recipes to mix up? Be sure to download your copy of 10 Tried and True Low Fire Glaze Recipes: Recipe Cards for our Favorite Low Fire Ceramic Glazes, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily Subscribers.

The Ceramic Glaze Making Process


Ceramic Glaze Testing

Unlike paint, glazes must be fired. Furthermore, glazes are transformed by the fire and do not have the same surface or color before they are fired as after. The kiln firing changes the characteristics of the glaze in a most profound way. The best way to track these transformations is to fire glazes first on a test tile. This will allow you to see what a glaze’s surface, color, and texture are after firing. The test tile should be fairly large and should have a character that is similar to your normal work. It is especially important to use the same clay and firing as you normally use in your work. Both of these strongly influence the character of the glaze.


Glaze tests by Angelo diPetta.

The Ceramic Glaze Testing Process