Since taking up pottery a few years back, I’ve had the opportunity to try a myriad of techniques with both hand built and wheel thrown pieces. After seeing some incredible works using bubbling, I decided to dive into the world of bubble glazing! Continue reading below to find out a bit more about how my first attempts at bubble glazing turned out, and what I’m going to change for next time around!
I first was introduced to bubble glazing when perusing Instagram, going through different pottery related hashtags. I don’t remember the exact post or artist, but I do remember saying to myself ‘wow, this is really cool, I want to do this.’ I then headed down into the abyss of bubble glazing picture by following the hashtag #bubbleglazing on Instagram.
Types of Glazing
From looking at images on Instagram and reading a variety of articles online, I quickly learned that there were several ways in which one could ‘bubble’ their work. The way in which you could do so would depend heavily on the types of glazes you have available. I am by NO MEANS an expert in glazes, so please don’t take my commentss as the end all and be all. I’m sure there are more ways to do this technique than I am sharing today. I’m including links at the end of this post to blogs and articles from successful ‘bubblers’, should you want to learn more.
Many take a bisque fired piece of pottery, dip it in white glaze, then mix another glaze colour with dish soap, and bubble! Others bubble glaze first on the bisque-ware then cover with a clear glaze. The bubbling process doesn’t adequately cover the piece with glaze, so either and under or over coat is necessary. This type if bubbling doesn’t work for my purposes, as the glazes we use need to be thickly coated on for the colours to appear. A light coat of bubbled glaze would disappear!
Thankfully, there is more than one way to do things. Instead of bubbling with actual glaze, you can also bubble with underglaze! Underglaze is a type of paint that is used on pottery. I underglaze before my pottery is bisque fired, but I have seen others paint after initial firing as well. I can’t tell you which is the better option, just what I have done personally.
Bubbling With Underglaze
As I mentioned above, underglaze is a special type of paint that is used to decorate pottery. It can withstand the powerful heat of a kiln, and undergoes a bit of a chemical reaction from being painted on to final glaze firing. Just like a glaze, the colour you paint on is not necessarily the colour that appears once all is said and done.
For my first ‘bubbling’ experience, I chose to go basic, and bubble a wheel-thrown bowl in blue. The bowl I used was dry, but quite fragile, as it had not yet undergone a bisque firing. After researching a bit online about how to create good bubbles, I mixed equal parts underglaze, water and dish detergent. After mixing my liquid concoction thoroughly, I started creating bubbles by blowing into the mixture through a straw, letting the bubbles pour out of the cup. I let them land as they may onto and around my bowl, which I had placed inside an aluminum tray. After letting most of the bubbles pop, I flipped my bowl over and repeated the process on the other side.
The blue underglaze paint showed up VERY well against the white clay. I also liked the mixture of large and small bubbles on the clay. I left the bowl sitting in the tray for a while, then took it out to see what it looked like. As you can see , there is a LOT of blue in this bowl.
Having had good success with my first bubbled green-ware, I decided to try bubbling some more, but with several colours! I set up my station again, bubbling both hand built plates and smaller wheel-thrown bowls this time. You’ll note below that the colours are blue and purple, but the purple comes out more of a blue. You’ll also note that the colours are a bit less intense than my first bowl which comes into play later.
Bisque Fired and Ready to Glaze
For those new to pottery, bisque firing is where your dry pottery is put in the kiln at a high temperature to make it hard. Until it is bisque fired, pottery is very, very delicate and can break quite easily. Luckily, all of my pieces made it through bisque firing unscathed, and were ready for glazing! As you can see below, the colours have become stronger, but the blue bowl by far is the most vibrant. I believe it is because I was more liberal when adding under-glaze to my water and soap mixture this time.A rere
After cleaning my pieces of any residual dust and covering the bases with wax, they were ready to dip! Glazing is always the hardest for me, as any painting disappears under the glaze. I also don’t get to see my work again until the kiln has fired again, cooled down, and opened.
After a few weeks had passed, I was finally able to pick up my work. I was just a little disappointed because my two smaller bowls didn’t make it into the kiln, so I will have to a wait a bit to see them in their final form! I was however very excited to see my other pieces! The heavy blue under-glaze stood out the most, while the purple-turned blue faded quite a bit during the glaze firing. I attribute this to not putting enough under-glaze in the mixture, so will adjust accordingly for next time.
My most favourite part is seeing the comparison of the blue on the glazed versus the unglazed parts. Isn’t is amazing how rich the blue becomes under the clear glaze?
Take Aways from a First Attempt
From this experience I learned a couple of things… Firstly, that I do enjoy bubble glazing and want to do it again! I also learned the importance of a deep pigment when choosing a colour. I will make sure to be overly generous when mixing my under-glaze, water and soap. Before trying again, I need to give some more thought to whether I want to use multiple colours. When I try to bubble again, I will create a new post to share how the second attempt goes!!
Are you interested in trying bubble glazing? I have listed a few links below to check out from potters much more experienced than myself.
Relevant Links and Information
- Tips and Tools: Bubble Glazing – Ceramic Arts Network
- How to Bubble Glaze! – Where Creativity Works -uses glazes for bubbling
- SOAP BUBBLES AND CLAY – WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT -great step by step guide
- How To: Bubble Glaze, by Calders Ceramics – video demonstrating the use of underglazes for bubbling on bisque fired pieces.