So, as I’ve said previously, I’ve done ceramics for quite some time.  My first piece I remember making has the year 1993 etched on it, so it’s been at least 18 years.  Anyway, a few years ago I took a surface decoration class at the Clay Studio (which I highly recommend for anyone living in Philly) and one of the techniques I liked the most was the use of paper as a resist.

Now, this can only be used with greenware (aka hasn’t been baked in the kiln) and it can’t have dried all the way through, although it works best of the clay is a bit dry.  Basically, the first thing you do is take paper (preferably thin paper like newspaper) and cut it into various shapes.  It works better if they are smaller shapes, as the big ones tend to fall apart easier (you’ll be using water, which doesn’t agree with paper).  I personally like printing designs or pictures on paper and cutting them out.  Next, you get two things: a small container of water and some colored slip.  Colored slip is basically watery clay that you add coloring of some sort to.  It’s made with a clay body, so it bakes in the kiln with your clay, not in a later firing like glaze.  Glaze has a much higher melting temperature and that’s why you put it on after you’ve already bisqued your clay.

Anyway, the most important thing to remember in this process is that the color you use will be the color of the shape of whatever paper resist you use next.  So, if you want a background color, that’s going to be the absolute last color you paint.  For example, one of my test tiles, as you can see below, had some issues with it: my name ended up blotchy because I painted it on too light, the lines stop and start because I put those resists down after the name, etc.  But anyway, I painted yellow directly onto the tile before anything else, then put down the letter resists, then painted green, then the line paper resists, then white over the whole thing:

If you want something in the foreground to be yellow, you have to paint the area yellow first before putting down the resist.  It may seem simple, but I recommend doing a few testers first, just so you get the hang of it.  I’m sure glad I did.

Anyway, so what you do is this:
1. Paint the color of whatever you want your first cut-out shape to be.  Wait until it dries.
2. Dunk the paper cut-out in water, drip it dry, then carefully lay it down where you want to see that shape.
3. Once it is fully attached, paint the color of your next cut-out, making sure to paint in the area you are planning to put it.  Don’t worry about painting too large an area.  As long as you stay within the boundaries of your background color, it’ll all be covered up anyway.
4. Wait until the paint is dry enough that it doesn’t come off on your finger when you touch it, then repeat the process in 2 and 3 with the rest of the cut-outs.

As long as you fully wet the paper and firmly attached it to the pottery, what you’ll get are clean lines and large areas of color.  If it starts peeling at the corners, wet your fingers and push it back into place.  I used pictures for this “didgeridoo holder” from our trips:

The didgeridoo was made out of wood and had a very colorful design on it even though you could still see the wood.  I was aiming to emulate that style in making the holder out of red terracotta clay with splotches of color.  This was already shaped and mostly dried when I started the surface decoration.  This next one used a picture I had taken of The Kiss by Rodin.  You have to be careful using white over any dark color because it is likely to bleed through the white, as happened here.  However, I kind of liked the effect in the end.

This final one, a plate, was done using a picture of Grace Kelley I had found on the internet.  The plate itself was made with a mold that I think was made with bubble wrap.  So, all the spots where the blue is darker, that’s where some glaze pooled up later.  That is not an effect you’ll get from colored slip, as it doesn’t run.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s post.  In other news, I’m working on a post about food carts and street food, so if you have any ideas (or pictures) you’d like to share, let me know!