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  • Johannes Scott


There are three primary stages for application of conventional decoration: on green ware, on biscuit ware, and on glaze ware.

Application on GREEN WARE

During the different stages of green ware, from soft to leather hard, the clay will react differently to different tools and applications. Imaginative experimentation will provide you with endless variation in texture, line, colour, relief, indentation, embossing, shading, and so forth.

During the early stages of green ware, paint slip for a change of base colour. Following that, while the slip remains wet, cut stencils from paper, or use plant foliage to stick to the wet slip and, once dry, paint other colours to create negative and positive patterns. On completion, remove stencil or allow plant leaf to burn away during firing.

Create sgraffito using a pointed tool (not too sharp, to avoid an unpleasant furrowed line that will cut glaze), or hair comb for graving through the slip layer. Or use same without slip layer and wash with oxide after biscuit firing to show graved design.

Create your own seal by carving a design or emblem into half dry clay, followed by biscuit fire for durability. Use seal to stamp well defined design impressions, followed by a basting of thick slip. Dry basting to same consistency as clay impression and shave with scraper tool or steel kidney to expose the emblem.

Add soft clay to emboss or create relief designs. Use a wooden bat to flatten sides or beat with angled side for creating random lines and texture. Consider rubber stamps and engraved rollers for intricate designs. Create and invent your own tools for decoration on green ware.

Application on BISCUIT WARE

Use sharp metal tool and engrave shallow design, like on etching plates. Wash with OXIDE for finished etching effect. Purchase UNDER-GLAZE products for painting designs in colour or washing onto the biscuit surface.

The above layering could be hardened with a second biscuit firing to prevent smudging before painting TRANSPARENT GLAZE for final firing. Be careful not to spoil a strong shape built in a beautiful clay body with unnecessary decoration. Often, such an independent shape simply needs a transparent coat.

COLOUR GLAZE itself functions as decoration design – without the need for supplementation. Purchase your own pallet of glaze for a range of colour application, paint it onto the biscuit ware and fire.

Remember to wash your biscuit ware, to remove dust that may cause pin-holing, and dry properly before glaze application.


This method of decoration was named after the Spanish Island Majorca, where it originated under Moorish artistry and later transformed under Italian Renaissance rule, to become known as ‘istoriato’ ware. It is recognised as white, tin-glazed pottery decorated in historical and mythical scenes; ‘istoriato’ literally translates as ‘painted with stories.’

To practice maiolica, paint biscuit ware with white glaze, followed directly by decorative brushwork onto raw glaze, before kiln firing. Decoration medium for maiolica has traditionally been blue; cobalt oxide mixed with water, but any oxide or colour stain will be sufficient.

A variation of brushstrokes can be achieved with different Japanese brushes. Each brush can be adapted by tapering the point for creating a range of broad to thin lines.

Invent your own special brush for maiolica: Use mammal hair by cutting dog or cat hair from different parts of the anatomy. Place longer, firm hair in the middle and encircle with soft, shorter hair. Tighten and knot at base with string and glue permanently into a hollow bamboo stick or pen holder.

Application on GLAZE WARE


Purchase your range of ON-GLAZE enamels for design application; these are sold as dry, pigmented powders in small quantities. In addition, buy the appropriate oil medium to mix with the powder. An oil medium helps with the difficulty of painting thin, film-like layers on a glassy surface. Alternatively, mix the on-glaze pigment with water and/or gum Arabic. Due to the difficulty of painting with a water medium on a glassy surface, the surface needs to be prepared by lightly coating a wash of gum Arabic for adhesion. When dried, paint with the water solution for lighter tones and the gum Arabic solution for heavier tones. Formulate water and gum Arabic solutions to create a range of solutions, from watery to thick syrupy consistency. Either way, purchase craft brushes for respective solutions.

Enamels fire separately at an exclusive kiln temperature.


Purchase your oil-based metal lustre, usually gold or platinum, in minute quantities of about 2 grams. Apply with a light volume brush.

Fire separately at an exclusive kiln temperature.


A transfer is a design silkscreened with enamel colours onto a sheet of plastic. The plastic sheet is glued to a sheet of paper with gum Arabic – enamelled side of plastic sheet facing the paper. Once you have separated, and cut-out the required motif, submerge the cut-out in a bowl of lukewarm water and wait a few minutes for the gum Arabic to dissolve. The transfer (plastic sheet) is then slid off the paper and onto the glazed ceramic surface. If the transfer is old or your water source is ‘hard’, add a small drop of liquid soap to the water, to soften the water.

Purchase your transfers as sheets of paper, each sheet comes with its own range of designs that can be cut according to the range of motifs displayed.

Fire separately at an exclusive kiln temperature.

From the series Ecocide, by Johannes Scott (2019).


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