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Ceramics 101

Painting your bisque

After firing, greenware is called bisque. The bisque is finished with underglaze for bisque, glazes or non-fired paints. Here we will only concentrate on the fired glazes and underglazes.

Before you begin painting always be sure to wipe your ceramic piece down with a damp sponge. This will ensure that there is no dust on your piece which could cause the glaze to pull away and leave a bare spot. It will also help prepare the bisque to accept the glaze. A dry piece of bisque could instantly absorb all the moisture in the glaze, causing your brush to grab. Glaze and underglaze should flow smoothly from the brush.

Underglaze for bisque is generally used for detail painting, though it can be used to cover the entire piece if you so desire. This is where you would use Duncan's Concepts for Bisque. Use an appropriate sized brush, not too small. For long flowing lines, use a liner, loading it carefully so the paint flows freely from the bristles.

After painting your detail on the piece you should use a sponge or lightly brush on the first coat of clear glaze. Allow this first coat to dry, then paint on two more coats, being careful not to smear your detail paint. Or you can dip the piece in a clear dipping glaze. (See Learning how to use Dipping Glaze)

If you are coating your piece with glaze, paint three flowing coats of a color of your choice glaze on your piece, being careful of brushstrokes which could show up in unleaded glazes. If you are applying crystal glaze you should pick up the crystals and apply to the piece while applying the third coat of glaze. Do not place crystals too near the bottom of the piece or you could end up having little glaze 'feet' holding your piece up in the air - or even sticking it to the kiln shelf.

Another idea is to paint your bisque with three smooth coats of white satin glaze, SN352. When completely dry paint details on the glaze using either EZ Strokes or Concepts. For instance, you could use shades of blue for an Oriental look. When the design is complete fire to cone 06. No further glaze is necessary. This is called Majolica style painting. For fun you could paint over other satin glaze colors like pink, banana or even key lime.

Put in the most simplistic terms, glaze is made up of glass particles which melt at high temperatures and chemically fuse with the bisque during the firing process in the kiln. Therefore, glazed bisque pieces must be stilted on special stands made of nichrome wire and must not touch each other, or anything else in the kiln, or else they will be fused together. There is nothing more disappointing than finding your piece glued to the kiln shelf! It happens to everyone at some point and that's why you should always coat your kiln shelves with kiln wash.

After loading the kiln, the firing process takes many hours. The kiln is heated to a temperature of about 1873 degrees F (for a cone 06 firing), ensuring that the glaze has properly matured. The kiln is then allowed to cool for at least as long as it was heated. When completely cool, the kiln is unloaded and the stilt marks are carefully removed from the bottom of each item using a dremel tool with green ceramic bit, an emery board or a stilt stone. If you wish, you can cover each stilt mark with clear sealer or clear nail polish.

Consult your kilndealer to learn the particulars on the proper firing of your kiln.

Page 6 - Ceramics 101

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