mason stain

  • If you've followed our elephant sculpture series, you know I left it at a point where you could finish it the way you wanted, however; if you haven't finished it yet, you may want to see how I am finishing mine.

    I will use a combination of mason stains and glazes, to give depth and definition to the details, as well as leaving some areas bare to accent the piece.

    You will need a black mason stain, white glaze (I prefer a satin matte finish), a couple small mixing containers, and brushes.

    Follow me to the studio and let's see how it turns out!

    • 13 Pottery Decorating Techniques and Tips - Pottery Making Info |

      […] Ceramic Store explains how to mix mason stains and glaze to get some great […]

  • BCS customer Lisa Harnish shares her amazing techniques and recipes for "Sgraffito in Terra Sigillata" in today's post! Visit Lisa's website for more!

    Lisa Harnish first began working with clay in January 2002. Her initial education in ceramics began at Chandler Gilbert Community College, and continues to this day. Lisa’s sgraffito designs take their inspiration from nature, such as grass, leaves, seaweed and vines that wind their way around and across the vessel. 

    What is Terra Sigillata -

    Terra Sigillata is Latin for “sealed earth”. Its usage dates back to ancient Roman times. It was developed as a method of sealing the surface of pottery forms, and for decoration (red and black slip). In today’s ceramics, Terra Sigillata is a generic term for a thin slip made by separating the tiniest, finest particles of clay from the larger particles. Often called “Terra Sig” or even just “Sig” for short, it can be made from almost any clay body.

    Lisa’s Terra Sigillata (adapted from Matt Metz)

    • 4,000 grams dry Grolleg clay
    • 2 gallons distilled water
    • 40 grams Calgon


    • Mixing Instructions: Empty water into a clean, 5-gallon bucket. Measure Calgon, add to bucket,  mix to dissolve. Add Grolleg clay in 500 gram batches, mixing after each addition. Set mixture aside to settle for at least 2 days. Use a turkey baster to siphon off the middle layer in small batches as needed. Leave the water layer on top, to keep it from drying out prematurely. The sig should be the consistency of whole milk.

    Coloring Terra Sigillata

    Because I’m trying to keep contamination of the sig to a minimum, I prefer to use metallic oxides (or carbonates), rather than stains, the only exception to this is for the satin black, I use Mason Stain Black 6600.

    Applying Terra Sigillata

    I've found it difficult to apply terra sigillata to wet or leather hard clay. It seems to not want to “stick”, let alone build up a solidly colored surface, however; bone dry greenware is very absorbent, and will accept the terra sig quite readily.

    Sanding the greenware with a coarse grit sand paper (60 grit or lower) raises a “tooth” to the surface, a faint texture that will act like a sponge to soak up the terra sig, ensuring a good fit. Neglecting this step has often resulted in sintering, where the sig layer tries to peel away from the clay surface during firing.

    • Sanding generates a lot of dust, which can be hazardous to breathe in. Wear a properly fitted respirator when sanding greenware, in a well ventilated area (i.e., outside).

    I use soft "fan" style brushes, or even inexpensive house paint brushes. I do make a point of keeping the brushes separated by the colorant used to prevent contamination. For instance, Red Iron Oxide is only used in Red Iron Oxide sig.

    Join us next week for Part 2 where we will go a little more in depth on using the Terra Sig,  burnishing, sgraffito, and glazing!

    If you'd like to share your ideas for our blog, email us at!

  • Do you use slip for trailing or painting on your pots? Have you ever wanted to add some raised texture or heavy lines? One of the best ways I've found to do it is to use slip. Whether you trail it on, paint it on, or add it to the surface of the entire piece for dimension, slip is an amazing asset to your supply collection!

    Commercial slips like Laguna Glacier White, can be purchased pre-mixed and ready to go. Adding stains, or oxides, you can make pretty much any color under the sun. Test firing will need to be done, to ensure it will adhere to your clay body, and for an accurate sample of the fired color.

    I prefer to make my own for a few reasons,

    • It will mesh with my piece since it's the same clay body
    • I like to "mix it up a bit" with colors, so using my clay scraps is cheaper, and uses them up

    Are you ready to make a few of your own slips? Grab your coffee and follow me out to the studio!

    • teresa | #

      I am using Georgies timberline grogged clay for handbuilding a large piece, the grog is showing so I bought the same clay without grog and thought id make a slip from it to cover my pot, i want to know if I can whiten it more by adding some Kaolin or tin oxide and is so how much would I use?
      Thanks for your help

  • Are you looking for home décor projects for the holidays? Or maybe you give clay lessons, and are looking for holiday themed projects. Well, here's a really easy candy cane project for kids ages 1 to 100!

    Using a little mason stain or oxides, colored clay makes candy cane striping easy. Whether they are for the tree, on the walls, or to adorn your front door for the holiday season, these canes will last a lifetime.

    In less than 30 minutes, you can have a bunch of candy canes ready for the drying racks. So, grab a cup of coffee and your apron, and let's head to the studio!

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