Experimentation with Decorating Slips

Ive been looking at a range of artist lately, (Susan Nemeth, Virginia Leonard and the American clay expressionists) and I wanted to explore form. I had about two kilos of crank clay so decided to coil a jug out of my imagination, not really caring if the piece was ascetically pleasing in any shape or form.

Similarly but at the same time contrastingly, the work my Magdalene Odundo which is more concerned with shape and how straight and smooth the final burnished by hand
surfaces are. Her traditional methods used in sub-Saharan Africa production which is primarily made by women, and Odundo recognizes and reinforces this connection through her work’s anthropomorphic references to the female body. But her work also plays with traditional associations. For one, Odundo sees her works, unlike the utilitarian pots created by women, as containers of form and colour. By conceiving her objects not as vessels but as sculpture, traditionally seen as the purview of men, she blurs the boundaries between these gendered realms.

Wanting to explore decorating slips and sgraffito, I decided to go down to the glaze room and mix some slips. The actual recipe is really simple ( 50:50, Ball Clay to China Clay) with an addition of an oxide/stain between 5%-10% and is mixed in the same way as a glaze; however, only 50% of water in relation to dry ingredients is added and its sieved on a 60-80 hole mesh.

I added a thick coat of green slip first and secondly brushed a layer of black decorating slip, leaving the vessel to go leather hard, ready for carving.

I didn’t really think much about the design, I just went through a range of tools making linear marks from top to bottom to explore the possibilities of sgraffito. Just need to let it dry now, ready for bisque firing and glaze it with a clear glaze so the colours pop out. The surface qualities did remind me of the work of amazing and talented Peter Beard.

“The objective of my work is to produce beautiful objects that are modern, yet owe an allegiance to history, giving them a timeless quality.

Strong simple shapes are decorated with complex glaze surfaces to complement and excite the eye. Landscape in all forms is my main source of inspiration, along with the art of ancient Egypt. Combinations of shiny, matt and semi-matt glazes are built up in layers to create the textural surfaces during firing. Wax is used to isolate areas during glaze application”

Peter Beard – Website


Also done another example, using a pinch bowl which i turned into a mug and has a orange decorating slip underneath the black, exploring marks around the cup. Just can’t wait to clear glaze them and see their vivid colours.




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BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

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