Friday, 9 October 2009

Glazing Methods - Buttons


(buy this little button here)

8 egg cups
4 salt and pepper bowls
16 large stars (xmas decorations)
18 small stars (xmas decorations)
8 medium square buttons

That's how many things I glazed yesterday. It looks like a recipe for a long and busy day. And so it was (there were moments when I wondered why I was doing all of this). I admit that glazing is my least favourite part of potting. I suspect I'm not alone in that respect; and glazing very small items like buttons or xmas decorations is time consuming, fiddly and can seem like cutting a lawn with a pair of scissors. However, somehow I got through it all with only the occasional set back (lid of glaze bucket falling onto freshly glazed button and spoiling it). In fact I even managed to get a system going, which after a couple of hours generated a kind of rhythm all its own. So I thought I'd jot down this method for future reference.

Here's what I did. I put a button or xmas dec face upwards flat on my palm and submerged it horizontally into the glaze. I held it there for a few seconds then brought it up again making sure it stayed horizontal so the glaze settled smoothly on the face of the button. Then I carefully picked it up by the edges and popped it down - face up - onto a damp, flat sponge.

That's the easy bit. The tricky bit is getting the button cleaned up and presentable after its little dip. All my buttons are glazed on one side only and fired flat on a kiln shelf. This means their base has to be wiped clean. And the easiest method seems to be to grip the button at the edges and slide the base along the sponge. A couple of wipes in different directions and the glaze should come off completely. Then I usually let the button stand on a clean work surface for a minute while I submerge a few more.

Perhaps it's a little obsessive, but I also clean all around the edges of buttons and xmas decs with a small piece of sponge - this guarantees no glaze can leak down the sides. This is time consuming though; especially with five pointed stars...

Finally I get a pin tool to clean out the button holes. When I first started to make buttons, this finishing touch was my downfall. At the last moment my hand would subconsciously shake and and I'd score a nasty scratch into my perfect glaze. So to avoid this I started to unclog the holes from the back. Unfortunately, puncturing the hole from the reverse often causes the glaze to crack, weaken and small chunks to flake away. But then I realized if I dipped the pin tool in water first, the little droplet would dampen and dissolve the glaze as it was pierced and protect it from cracks. And this seems to be the best way to unclog the holes. The water naturally dispels the clog and (after a quick wipe with the sponge on the back of the piece) leaves a clean finish. Genius! Of course this is probably how I should have been doing it from the beginning. But I've never read anywhere or heard mention this little tip. Perhaps it's supposed to be obvious? Self evident? But I've rarely found pottery to be either of these...Well anyway, I've decided to take total credit for it!

So there we are: one method for glazing buttons and other small, flat accessories. Let's hope they all work!

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