Cactus Flower

Recently, I showed you a bowl where I had used wax resist to cover up a skull design, preserving the raw white clay from the thick glazes I was using. Today, we'll try out the same technique on some underglaze painting.

In previous posts, I'd also shown you some underglaze designs I made on a series of bowls, which I then dipped in transparent glazes. These pieces didn't require any wax resist because the overall glaze was thin enough to allow the color to shine through, but I started wondering whether I could achieve a similar effect with thicker, more opaque glazes. After seeing the results of my skull experiment, I decided to try it out on a couple of bowls I had painted with cactus designs. 

Like other patterns I've been using, these are based on flowers I've seen around town, some as local as the blooms on the cactus I keep outside my front door. 

First, I painted over the flowers with my green wax resist. I had painted the underglaze several weeks ago, so the flowers were quite dry by this point. 

After the wax had set for about an hour, I dipped my bowls in a glaze called floating blue. In its unfired state it looks like a terra cotta, but in actuality floating blue is a very dark, turquoise sort of color that's renowned in the clay studio for its ability to highlight different textures. Being such a dominant, opaque color, I figured it was as good as any glaze for experimentation. Usually I like to dip my pieces in more than one color, but this time I kept it simple because I was primarily interested in seeing how well the wax resist could hold up.

After a few days, the pieces went into the kiln, and emerged looking like this:

I have to admit I'm pleased with how clearly the underglaze stands out against the floating blue. The orange flower in particular forms a striking contrast against the dark turquoise, but more importantly, the outlines of both flowers have been preserved. The wax resist really did hold up against that thick color, keeping the outlines of the flowers clean and well-defined rather than letting them dissolve into indistinct blobs.

In retrospect, I would have rubbed some black into the outlines before I painted the flowers so that the thorns would stand out better, you can hardly see them when they're white, but it's something I'll keep in mind for the future if I use this pattern again. Admittedly, I'm more interested in skulls than cactus flowers at the moment, but I'm happy that the effect turned out so well, and can add it to my color arsenal.