Skull bowl

Lately I've started embracing the use of wax resist in my pottery, because as much as I enjoy creating highly-detailed work, I'm always looking for more efficient approaches. 

A few weeks ago, I showed you some bowls that I had painted with underglaze, then dipped in transparent color glazes, allowing the pattern underneath to shine through. While the visual effect is pleasing, it takes forever to paint one of these pieces. Moreover, in order for the underglazes to appear, I have to limit myself to the more translucent colors. This is all dandy, except that the colors I really like tend to come from the more opaque glazes. Rich blues, deep reds, chocolate browns. What can I say, I want it all.

It was while I was debating this conundrum that I decided to see whether wax resist would help me. Before any piece is glaze-fired, you have to coat the bottom to protect it from any melting glazes. I had tried it once or twice on a couple of experimental pieces, but now I wanted to see whether I could protect an entire drawing, more or less. And what better design to try it out on than through a skull? Face, you'll never get away from them in my work.

I started by taking a small bowl and drawing a coyote skull on it. The bowl hadn't been thrown especially well, so I wasn't partial to it. If the experiment was a disaster, I wouldn't miss it. After the piece had been fired once, I prepared to glaze it. First, I took a small amount of black underglaze, watered it down, and then rub it into the line work to help the pattern stand out.

Once the underglaze was dry, I painted the wax resist over it. I use a green wax because it stands out against the white clay.

Once the wax had set for an hour or so, I dipped the bowl in two glazes: brown and green. I dipped the side with the skull in the brown glaze, which was the more opaque of the two. The point of the whole endeavor, after all, was to see whether the design would remain intact when surrounded by opaque glazes. So far it seemed okay, but I wouldn't know the final answer until it came out of the kiln.

And here's the final result:

Overall I'm pleased with the clarity of the image. I'll admit, it's not a great piece, the wax resist was painted a little sloppily around the edges and the bowl itself is not once of my better works, but what I see here is the potential for some really great pieces. I'm starting to think I could do a whole batch of skull-themed works, from mugs to bowls, even jars, with different color schemes and textures. Moreover, it would be a great place to put all my dozens of skull sketches to use, not only of modern animals, but even the numerous prehistoric skulls I've drawn at natural history museums over the years. In short, I think there's potential here, and I plan to continue developing it.