Working With Ceramics

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Creating decorative ceramic home décor and accessories is fun for crafters at every skill level.

Whether you start with a lump of clay or purchase a ready-made piece, ceramics is a hobby and art form that lures many with its colorful promise.

A ceramic artist begins with a concept, throws the piece on a wheel, sculpts the object or uses other techniques such as slab construction to create the article.

He then glazes and fires the piece in a kiln, perhaps many times, to develop the final paint effect.

Greenware & Bisque

Conversely, a hobbyist will purchase pre-made greenware or bisque pieces, ready for painting. They have the fun and creativity of completing a decorative and useful item without the time, commitment and cost of producing the piece from scratch.

Unfired ceramic pieces are known as greenware and require paint or glaze that will be fired to create a permanent layer. Pieces that have been fired without any glaze are referred to as bisque-ware and can be painted with glaze for firing, or simply painted with acrylic paint.

There are an amazing number of paints from various manufacturers, suitable for ceramics. Whether the artist is looking for exotic, multi-colored effects, unusual finishes or simply wants to create colorful, quick décor items, there are many choices for the beginning crafter or advanced artist.

Light My Fire – Kiln-Fired Paints

Unless the artist has samples of fired pieces or a photographic color chart, choosing a glaze can be like buying a pig in a poke. With many lines of paints, looking at the liquid in the jar gives no indication of how it may look when fired. Although this is not true with some paints, it is always a good idea to see examples of finished glazes before purchasing.

Some paints are very forgiving and are well suited for beginners and children. These paints are tolerant and produce good results, despite a lack of experience. Most paints require several coats for good coverage, although this varies with different products. These paints are water-soluble and can be thinned to the desired consistency.

A tremendous number of paints have multi-color effects such as dots, splatters, drips and sunbursts. There are paints that crackle and others that have a foam-like texture. The artist can also select from high-gloss or matte finish paints, as well as use final coatings to create luster and sheen.

Gold and white gold paints add glittering highlights to a piece. This liquid paint is applied with a brush, so the artist can create line work or text as well as accents to previously glazed pottery. Fired-on decals can be applied to items for personalized, custom results. This specialty paper is printed on a black-and-white laser printer, and the graphic is applied to the piece before firing. There are also commercial, color decals that can be used in the same manner.

Different results occur when specific conditions are set for the kiln. Chemicals can alter the paint colors and textures and are advanced skills a beginner should not consider, as there are certain health risks associated with some additives.

Brush-And-Go Paints For Bisque-Ware

Bisque-ware has already been fired and only needs to be painted for a finished piece. These paints are not dishwasher safe and not meant for food use, although they are non-toxic. The finish is waterproof, but can be scratched or damaged if handled improperly. They are great as decorator items, but the paint will not withstand mistreatment.

Artists and crafters typically use acrylic paints and urethane finishes to complete bisque pottery. The amount of detail and personalization is up to the artist, so a beginner or a child can paint a simple item easily and have a colorful objet d’art to grace his home or give as a gift. More advanced crafters may include remarkable detail to their work, using a myriad of colors, adding detail and refinement to the piece.

Any artist’s acrylic paint can be used to decorate bisque-ware, and the completed piece may be left as-is, or a waterproof urethane finish can be either brushed or sprayed on for additional protection. By nature, acrylic paint has a gloss finish, but repeated brush strokes can reduce the sheen. The appearance can be restored, using a high-gloss urethane finish coat. An alternative finish is a matte or satin appearance. Again, use durable urethane sprays and coatings for luminous, consistent results.

Decals, paper or thin, flexible plastic decorations can be applied to these pieces, using clear, brush-on medium to act as an adhesive and coating to protect the surface. This opens up countless possibilities for personalization. Professionals and children alike can add whimsy and personal, artistic style to their commercially made form.

Artists, hobbyists and children can all enjoy this engaging and creative craft. It is easy for beginners, intricate and detailed for advanced artisans and can be done on the kitchen table if space is at a premium. The cost can be relatively inexpensive and requires few supplies to get started. Of course, like eating pistachios, this can be a very addictive hobby. You just can’t stop with one.

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