There are so many methods for decorating pottery with slip - from slip trailing to mishima. Today, I am presenting another super fun slip decorating technique that reminds me of putting icing on a cake.
Chris Lively applies thick slips to his leather-hard pots and then uses various tools to sculpt and shape it - much like a pastry chef would work with icing. In this excerpt from the November/December 2016 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Chris explains one of his favorite ways to create this slip decoration.
– Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
P.S. Want to learn more about Chris Lively’s process? Read his full article (in the November/December 2016 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated) to find out how to properly mix slip for this technique as well as two other slip application techniques. Also as an added bonus, Chris describes his process for spraying glazes and you’ll even find a recipe for a mid- to high-fire lavender glaze.
Who knew decorating with slip could be like icing a cake?
by Chris Lively
First Slip Application Method
Slip can be applied to wet or to leather-hard clay. I prefer to apply slip at the leather-hard stage, because it allows me to trim the pot without disturbing the slip. I add slip directly after trimming; if the pot is too dry, the slip will crack. If cracks form around thick to thin areas, take a pencil or rubber clay shaper and compress the cracks. This method helps prevent the cracks from opening up further when fired.
Most of us got hooked on clay because it is so wonderfully malleable, tactile, and just plain squishable. If you know the right techniques, these characteristics can really be exploited to create lively, expressive finished pots. Gertrude Graham (nickname: Gay) Smith figured out that the best way for her to showcase clay’s pliable qualities in her finished work is to alter the form and surfaces of freshly thrown pots. In her video, she shares all of the secrets to these techniques. If you find yourself smitten with the nature of freshly thrown clay and want to learn to successfully capture it in your work, this video is for you!
I keep slip in a small, two-gallon bucket, which allows it to be easily stirred by hand. If you find your slip has thickened since you last used it, add a bit of water to get the right consistency and stir it again. Up-end the form and center it on the wheel before applying slip. My first method of application is to scoop the slip out with my hand and apply it to the spinning pot (1). Start at the top (which is actually the bottom) and cover the surface until about halfway down. Once slip is applied to the desired thickness (no more than 3⁄8 inch), you can begin decorating.
Note: From this point on, the wheel is stopped and only moved by hand.
Using a chip brush and starting on the pot just below the slip, swipe up while turning the wheel counter clockwise. Each swipe will cause the slip to drip (2). Continue this all the way around the pot (3). Clean off any slip that remains on the foot (4). Leave the pot to dry for about an hour, then flip it right-side up (5). Press down or wipe away any sharp drips that are still malleable. Once the slip is dry enough, cover the pot loosely with plastic or a bucket.