Tiles from my studio class

As you may remember I am taking a studio clay class at a nearby art center. I’ve been learning some new things. We work in some different techniques in this class than I do at home. Some of the differences are:

  • Using clay fired at a cone 6 temperature (which is higher) rather than the low-fire cone 06 that I do at home. That means I’m using different clays and different glazes to create work.
  • Glazing is accomplished by dipping the piece in glaze rather than brushing on glaze. That means I have had to learn how to handle various clay pieces when dipping them to get the glaze to go on correctly and in patterns I like or that fit my piece.
  • Glazes are formulated for the higher temperatures the clay is being fired at and so I am learning how these glazes work singly and in conjunction with each other.
  • I’ve been using different coloring techniques even when I am using underglazes, and the studio has different underglazes than the ones I have at home.

I’m going to show you some tiles I recently made. I’ll explain how I did them and what’s different from my at-home work. All of them are made with Standard clay #112, a light tan clay with speckles, and fired at cone 6. I cut them out with a 4″ x 4″ clay cutter.

Here’s the first one. A fox-like creature.

Clay tile 10-19 fox5


I had decided to use a stencil technique on this group of tiles. That meant I cut out a shape (I used magazine paper) and wet it. I laid it on top of the tile I had just made – it was just a square of wet clay.

I used black underglaze (which can be painted on raw clay) and then pulled off the stencil. The fox is the clay color and the surroundings are black.

I put the stencil down again over the fox, slightly offsetting it. I didn’t want the curly tail to be changed, so I set a rectangle over the whole area. Then I painted white underglaze over the whole thing. It was watery and did not cover the black, which I liked.

Then the tile was fired. When it came back, I used a wax resist and covered the fox, not perfectly, but pretty good. The idea of the resist is that whatever is under it will not accept the glaze, and it will melt off in the kiln, leaving the area as it was while the rest is glazed.

I also waxed the back of the tile. It can’t have any glaze on it or it will stick to the kiln shelf.

To dip a tile, you rest it on your fingers, not grasping it, just supporting it. You go to the big bucket of glaze (I used clear) and sweep the whole thing under the surface (try not to drop it or you’ll be scrabbling the bottom for it), swish a bit, count to maybe 5, and then sweep it out of the glaze, tilting it so that the excess runs off. Stand there a moment until it stops dripping, then clean the waxed area of excess glaze. It’s ready to be fired.

By the way, the clear glaze is not a translucent runny liquid but is instead a beige gloopy substance. The tile looks like it has icing on it when just glazed.

Here is the tile again. Now you can see the effect of the glaze (it darkens and makes shiny the surface) and the area left without glaze (in this case, you are looking at the clay body itself.)

Clay tile 10-19 fox5

I’ll show you some others I did in this same session. Here is a little round guy. I glazed some areas and some I left with the underglaze surface. The speckles are from the clay body, showing through the thin white underglaze.

Clay tile 10-19 round animal2

Here is a person holding a mysterious ball. The person and the ball are glazed – the background is not. That means I put wax all around the figure. I did not try to come right to the edge of the person, so that is why there is a black line around him of glazed background. That is what I hoped would happen.

Clay tile 10-19 man holding a ball3

Here is a tile made with the same stencil, but flipped. The hand and arm were detachable, so I moved them into a different position.

The background is striped in glazed and waxed sections, the waxed ones remaining matte. The person is also glazed.

Clay tile 10-19 man with a pale hand1

Here is a quizzical guy. He is left matte and the background glazed around him. I also made some wax “bubbles” in the area to the right, which left dull spots in the shiny.

Clay tile 10-19 quizzical man4

OK, that’s it for now. More coming.


22 thoughts on “Tiles from my studio class

  1. Pingback: Stencil Tiles #2 | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

  2. Pingback: Stencil Tiles #3 | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

  3. Pingback: Stencil Tiles #4 | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

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