Karen Swyler's "Flow," 7½ in. (19 cm) in height, porcelain, fired to cone 6 in oxidation, 2009. Karen Swyler does not rely on flashy glaze surfaces or intricate decoration to create an impact with her work. Instead she takes a much more subtle approach, juxtaposing raw white porcelain surfaces with ribbons of shiny clear-glazed lines or small accents of color. Her vessels are typically presented as groupings, relating to one another in interesting ways through the minimal decoration, blurring the line between functional pottery and sculpture or still life. And in spite of the subtlety, or perhaps because of the subtlety, the work makes an impact.


Today, Karen explains a little about how she approaches her glazing. I love her minimalist aesthetic and I plan to do some experimenting with the less-is-more approach to glazing. Should be fun! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


My glazing decisions are strongly influenced by my forms. Linear patterns and soft colors are employed to emphasize shape and add further layers of detail. Although large areas of the surfaces of these works are frequently unglazed, I spend a great deal of time preparing for the glazing process.


Prior to glazing, I sand my bisqueware with wet-dry sandpaper. This makes the unglazed surfaces smooth; the surface is almost marble-like once it has been fired.



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After sanding, I use automotive detail tape to create lines that will be glazed. This tape works particularly well to make a smooth, yet curved line on a variety of forms because it is slightly stretchy. The narrowness of the tape also allows me to make a series of thin lines close together. It adheres well to the bisque ware, but it is important the pieces are allowed to dry after sanding, because it will not stick if the bisqueware is damp.



After the detail tape is applied, all surfaces that are to remain unglazed are masked with blue tape. This tape works well because it adheres firmly but also peels away easily.


Once the taping is complete, glaze is applied using a spray gun. Immediately upon completion of glaze application, the tape is removed and the glazed line remains. Additional detail cleanup is done with a sponge and a small knife.


To learn more about Karen Swyler and see more images of her work, please visit http://karenswyler.com.


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