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Ceramics and Pottery: Facts and Fancies (Part 2)

May 6, 2009

by Vanessa Bertozzi handmade and vintage goods

Welcome to my second installment of Ceramics and Pottery: Facts and Fancies. In Part 1, I gave a general overview of the scope of the Ceramics and Pottery Category. From raw material to building and finishing, ceramics is a wondrous medium, as rewarding as it is challenging. In this installment, I will explore the processes of ceramics in greater depth, taking you into the studios and shops of some of Etsy’s most talented ceramics artists to see how they decorate and finish their work.

The term decoration refers to the finishing and embellishment of an object, meant to increase its beauty. The approaches to decoration are as widely varying as the individuals who do it. Standard methods are adopted, personalized and expanded upon. Methods can be combined in new ways, and new processes are invented in attempts to get just the right look.

A common method of decoration employs the use of colored slip, clay that has been mixed with water and ceramic pigments — either metallic oxides or special stains. This slip allows for colored designs that occur below the surface of the glaze. Reminiscent of the paper snowflakes of childhood, Eleanor Hedriks of studioelan cuts stencils from folded paper. The paper is laid out on a plate. Colored slip is carefully applied, the paper acting to protect part of the surface from the slip. After a little bit of drying, the paper is removed to reveal her design. (See more of this process on her blog.)

In a method called sgraffito, Jeff Martin applies black slip to white porcelain forms and then carves his dark yet whimsical drawings through the slip and into the clay beneath. The contrasting colors allow for a boldly graphic decoration. (Find out more about this artist on his blog.)
The opposite of sgraffito, Monica Bodnar employs a method called slip inlay. A drawing is carved into the clay when it is leather hard, a stage of dryness in which the clay will hold its shape but is not yet completely hardened. The piece is bisque fired, or fired at a low temperature to the point where it will absorb moisture but not turn back into a malleable (or plastic) material. Colored slip is wiped into the carved lines and then the surface is cleaned off before glazing. Liquid latex is used to protect the areas that are meant to be left clean. (Learn more about this artist’s process on her blog).
Using a method known as slip trailing, chARiTyelise uses a small hand-held squirt bottle fitted with a needle tip to apply a colored slip design of small dots to the surface of her Down Under Rectangular Tray. The pattern appears in both vivid color choices and a tactile dotted texture.

Using a combination of carving and colored slip trailing, GraceSheese of painstakingly applies her opulent surface.

Choosing the slip trailing method strictly for the texure of it, Kristen Kieffer of KiefferCeramics trails white porcelain slip onto her white porcelain pots. This process is combined with her use of texture stamps. In her blog she discusses, “I work with dozens of stamps I both design and make. I also embellish with slip trailing, liquid slip squeezed through a trailer, like small scale cake decorating. Both of these methods of patterning allow for the glaze to break and accent the patterns, further enhancing the piece as a whole.” As shown below, Kieffer’s glazes highlight the patterns and imagery that has been stamped into and squirted onto the underlying surface.  

In a similar fashion, my own pots employ a clear colored glaze, designed to highlight the surface decoration. Each pot is cut apart and reassembled, resulting in a pattern drawn through, not on, the pot. The lines created by the seams are accentuated with pooling glaze, causing them to appear darker.

Using texture alone as a decorative element, Seaurchin presses tools into the clay and leaves the surface unglazed, showcasing the beauty of the material itself. In her profile, she explains, “I do not fight with the clay to make neat edges and smooth, even surfaces, preferring instead to leave the tool marks, the raw edges and the natural texture of the clay.”

In making her stunning fruit bowls, isabelleabramson employs piercing and cutouts as an effective and functional decoration. The holes that permeate the bowls allow for moisture and gases to escape from the fruit while lending an exquisite, ethereal quality to the piece.
Perhaps some of the most humorous and witty of the decoration techniques found on Etsy involve overglaze decoration – enamels, lusters, or decals applied to glazed and fired work, which is then fired again to a much lower temperature so that they can fuse with the glaze beneath.

In her outrageous “Vandalized Vintage” line, trixiedelicious adds her quirky, sometimes blunt reinterpretations to old vintage dinnerware.

In her store Foldedpigs, Meredith Host gives restaurant china a macabre twist involving cockroaches, jolly rogers, and anatomical hearts and brains. (You can find out more about Meredith on her website.)

Keith Phillips of KHPhillips discusses his decal process on his blog, “I picked up some great vintage pages torn from an old French encyclopedia right here on Etsy. They had some nifty illustrations on them, which I scanned in and manipulated a little bit and used them to embellish this mug. I print on decal paper with a laser printer, slide them onto glazed ware and fire.”
The laser toner melts into the glaze, yielding a permanent and functional decoration. When applied to his hand thrown and wood fired pottery, the work is given an antique, almost Victorian ornamentation.
A constant explorer, Keith has delved into other image making equipment, such as CraftRobo Stencils  and Gocco print transfers.

Using real 23K gold luster, Re Jin Lee of Baileydoesntbark hand-paints her minimal four seasons designs on white glazed plates and cups for an elegant and luxurious result.
When purchasing items with onglaze decoration, it is important to read the description and the profile. Some items are intended for function, such as khphillips‘, while others are meant purely for decorative purposes, such as trixiedelicious. Luster is made for use, but cannot go into the microwave, as it will cause miniature lightning bolts to occur inside the microwave!

Thank you for joining me on this tour through some of the many incredible objects found on Etsy. I would like to stress that even with all of the pieces and sellers shown here, I have barely scratched the surface. If you find this interesting, I encourage you to set out on your own Etsy treasure hunt, through the Ceramics and Pottery Category.

Further Resources:
The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, NCECA — A community of more than 4,000 ceramic artists in the United States.

DigitalFires Ceramic Library — An encyclopedic guide to the ceramic process, including a glossary of terms, material, and articles on the technical side of glaze chemistry. — An evolving independent network of artists, includes several Etsy sellers and a variety of other contemporary ceramic artists who define the field (sculpture and pottery) today.

AccessCeramics — “A growing collection of contemporary ceramics images by recognized artists enhancing ceramics education worldwide,” operated by Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR. Features many large images and a very user-friendly interface.


Read Part 1 of Ceramics and Pottery, if you missed it. Big thank you to Jeff for sharing his expertise!

Learn about more of Etsy’s Categories with our Facts and Fancies Reviews, our tours through Etsy’s Categories.

Visit the MUD Team’s Shop | Shop the Ceramics and Pottery Category

Clearance - Porcelain Brooch with Glass - Aqua and Teal Flower
Clearance - Porcelain Brooch with Glass - Aqua and Teal Flower
Soup Bowls
Soup Bowls
Porcelain Bowl with Lattice Design
Porcelain Bowl with Lattice Design
Saint and Sinner plate duo
Saint and Sinner plate duo
Medium Tortoise Pattern Serving Bowl Lavender and Green
Medium Tortoise Pattern Serving Bowl Lavender and Green
wAsN't  tHaT  a  DaiNtY  diSh
wAsN't tHaT a DaiNtY diSh


  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 8 years ago

    Gorgeous fruit bowl!

  • SeaFindDesigns

    SeaFindDesigns said 8 years ago

    EVERY bit stunning!!!

  • neawear

    neawear said 8 years ago

    Gahd, I want everything! :)

  • gloilocksandbody

    gloilocksandbody said 8 years ago

    Ohhh, absolutely fantastic pieces! Wow, now I have some ceramics I gotta buy! <3

  • adoreneko

    adoreneko said 8 years ago

    I love the intricate handiwork of Etsy ceramic artists. Informative and extremely interesting behind-the-scenes article. I have even more respect for these amazing artists and their creations.

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 8 years ago

    Incredible workmanship by ceramic artists, admire there talent.

  • katiearms

    katiearms said 8 years ago

    Ah, great post! Working with ceramic is such a rewarding process.

  • asundrynotion

    asundrynotion said 8 years ago

    isabelleabramson's work is phenomenal. Reticulated vessels are so difficult to create. Well done!

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 8 years ago

    great great pick! beautiful works, I'm going to bookmark some of these. I really like the how you make it part of the article too, it's really informative!

  • bellasparty

    bellasparty said 8 years ago

    Wonderful works! I love the four seasons designs!

  • singlestonestudios

    singlestonestudios said 8 years ago

    Truly talented artists. Every piece featured is fantastic!

  • ModernMetalJewelry

    ModernMetalJewelry said 8 years ago

    Great article about the different techniques. Just love all the sample of work!

  • fineartstoneware

    fineartstoneware said 8 years ago

    Great article. Loved it!

  • Allthatglistens

    Allthatglistens said 8 years ago

    Great article that shines some light on very talented etsyians!

  • mythunderstood

    mythunderstood said 8 years ago

    Love the post!

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 8 years ago

    the tray by chARiTyelise is to die for! thanks for the continuing education as well!

  • jenniferlynnstudio

    jenniferlynnstudio said 8 years ago

    I have been waiting for the part 2..and enjoyed it, also! We have tons of talented artists...good to see some of them highlighted.

  • warmnfuzzies

    warmnfuzzies said 8 years ago

    Interesting read! Thanks.

  • taylorseclectic

    taylorseclectic said 8 years ago

    Fascinating glimpse into the world of ceramic artists! I greatly enjoyed this article.

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy said 8 years ago

    Another thoroughly enjoyable and informative read. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  • JDWolfePottery

    JDWolfePottery said 8 years ago

    Great article! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  • BrazanDesign

    BrazanDesign said 8 years ago

    So much incredible work here! This is my favorite section to peruse on etsy!

  • paperpatternsilk

    paperpatternsilk said 8 years ago

    Lots of gorgeous, interesting pieces here. : )

  • seedknits

    seedknits said 8 years ago

    So beautiful!

  • juditavill

    juditavill said 8 years ago


  • Threemoons

    Threemoons said 8 years ago

    Wow, not only do I want almost everything in this list, I want to find my local studio and TRY all of this fun stuff! :) Wish I had this list back in the day when I was a student and got a seat and 30 lbs. of clay for $100! :)

  • katerinadamilos

    katerinadamilos said 8 years ago

    fantastic, makes me want to take up pottery...

  • mostlyart

    mostlyart said 8 years ago

    Great! You chose some of my favorite pieces for this article :)

  • SleepDreamPlay

    SleepDreamPlay said 8 years ago

    Nice! I love ceramics.

  • shoshonasnow

    shoshonasnow said 8 years ago

    More fab ceramics!

  • shopgoldmine

    shopgoldmine said 8 years ago

    Oooooh, those SAINT and SINNER plates are fantastic ;)

  • foxpots

    foxpots said 8 years ago

    Nice article - good coverage of techniques, and lovely work as examples!

  • StudioElan

    StudioElan said 8 years ago

    Beautifully done!

  • pengpengs

    pengpengs said 8 years ago

    great article, i must study this.

  • ireneagh

    ireneagh said 8 years ago

    Great article! :) i love all these pics!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 8 years ago

    Interesting article! Unusual items!

  • copperlilly

    copperlilly said 8 years ago

    Fantastic, I love Etsy pottery!

  • worksandfinds

    worksandfinds said 8 years ago

    Beautiful, always wanted to learn that.

  • JudyBFreeman

    JudyBFreeman said 8 years ago

    Really comprehensive article and great follow-up to the first!

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares said 8 years ago

    oh my, you gave me a great idea with the colored slip and the paper cut-out, thanks for sharing!!

  • aquintostudio

    aquintostudio said 8 years ago

    Thanks for the marvelous article, Great work!

  • pogoshop

    pogoshop said 8 years ago

    The white isabelleabramson bowls are stunning!

  • sandali

    sandali said 8 years ago

    AWESOME article with beautiful featured items -- LOVE them all -- happy days ;)

  • foxaz

    foxaz said 8 years ago

    Very nice! Please have more articles like this- very interesting!

  • vivilian

    vivilian said 8 years ago

    Very cool creations!! I always want to create that. keep up the good works.    ◢████████████◣           ███████████████           ██   ◥██◤   ██      ◢███    ◥◤    ██◣  ▊▎██◣        ◢█▊▊     ▊▎██◤  ●  ●  ◥█▊▊    ▊ ██          █▊▊     ◥▇██ ▊      ▊ █▇◤    ██ ◥▆▄▄▄▄▆◤ █▊   ◢▇▇◣ ◢██◥◥▆▅▄▂▂▂▂▄▅▆███◣ ▊◢ █ █╳               ╳█ ◥◤◢◤ ◥█◣   ˙     ˙   ◢█◤  ◢◤    ▊      █ ◢◤   ▊           ▊  ◢◤   ▊     ⊕      █▇▇▇◤     ◢█▇▆▆▆▅▅▅▅▆▆▆▇█◣         ▊ ▂ ▊      ▊ ▂ ▊         ◥▆▆▆◤      ◥▆▆▆◤

  • vaeda

    vaeda said 8 years ago


  • KreatedbyKelly

    KreatedbyKelly said 8 years ago

    I am so impressed by these pieces *smiles* Awesome work!

  • Xenotees

    Xenotees said 8 years ago

    Incredible to learn more about how these artists produce their wonderful work! Love these articles!

  • barbaradunshee

    barbaradunshee said 8 years ago

    Some amazingly detailed work you've covered here. Such skill and love in each piece.

  • sharonclancydesigns

    sharonclancydesigns said 8 years ago

    Wow, this is so interesting! Very impressive work from these talented artists!!

  • GoldhawkPotteryEtc

    GoldhawkPotteryEtc said 8 years ago

    Thank you once again for a great overview of the wonderful diversity of pottery. I'm a fan of Grace Sheese and hope someday to try her techniques. So glad that Etsy is promoting the potters out there.

  • hannahfaerie

    hannahfaerie said 8 years ago

    Beautifully written. You have really covered a lot of the diverse ceramic work here on etsy. Its great to see, this kind of information can be so very useful to a buyer. And what stunning examples!

  • ClaycrazyPottery

    ClaycrazyPottery said 8 years ago

    wonderful article very informative especially for the not-so-clay-inclined

  • Misspottery

    Misspottery said 8 years ago

    Great article and fabulous examples!

  • jemmetals

    jemmetals said 8 years ago

    The Pierced fruit bowls are absolutely gorgeous, I am a jeweler and I can't imagine the patience that requires! Brava!

  • Littlepigpottery

    Littlepigpottery said 8 years ago

    Lovely. The article is as lush as the ceramics it shows.

  • ArtMind

    ArtMind said 8 years ago

    I simply love this! Missed the first part so I'll go and read that now! Thanks heaps for sharing - what a great series! :)

  • LomaPrietaPottery

    LomaPrietaPottery said 8 years ago

    Terrific article! Enjoyed reading about all of these techniques. Thanks!

  • reiddamnit

    reiddamnit said 8 years ago

    Meredith is pretty much a genius, I have several of her designs

  • anakim

    anakim said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article - thanks so much.

  • DeBonisOrquera

    DeBonisOrquera said 8 years ago

    Great article!

  • FebystanDesigns

    FebystanDesigns said 8 years ago

    Amazing to see the work in progress and wonderful selection!

  • SpiritedEarth

    SpiritedEarth said 8 years ago

    yea clay

  • BellaLili

    BellaLili said 8 years ago

    Now I am lusting after the pierced ceramic by Isabelleambramson. It would look perfect in my new apt!

  • jenniferladd

    jenniferladd said 8 years ago

    What beautiful work from everyone!

  • MadisonReeceDesigns

    MadisonReeceDesigns said 8 years ago

    What gorgeous work! I love the four seasons.

  • dahlhaus

    dahlhaus said 8 years ago

    Great job and highlights of this amazing work- You've found some real treasures here!

  • CampanaCeramics

    CampanaCeramics said 8 years ago

    There's so many awesome ceramic things on etsy, I could go on, and on, and on... Thanks everyone for reading this and thanks for the wonderful comments!

  • RubyStudios

    RubyStudios said 8 years ago

    Man, this was great. I have to bookmark this one because there are too many wonderful things look at right now!! Thank you CampanaCeramics and Vanessa!

  • patspottery

    patspottery said 8 years ago

    This is a truly well thought out and informative article:>)

  • glyntpottery

    glyntpottery said 8 years ago

    Thanks for such a great article!

  • TianaCHE

    TianaCHE said 8 years ago

    Awesome treasury! Love ceramics and your choice too!

  • RedGateCeramics

    RedGateCeramics said 8 years ago

    Another fantastic article. Love the extensive use of links to take us on a tour of the processes involved.

  • Creativewithclay

    Creativewithclay said 8 years ago

    Great follow up article. Great techniques! Awesome job putting it all together.

  • chARiTyelise

    chARiTyelise said 8 years ago

    another great article! thanks a lot for more behind the curtains information about a lot of really cool techniques!

  • artractions

    artractions said 8 years ago

    great article! thanks!

  • merlinsbarkproducts

    merlinsbarkproducts said 8 years ago

    Absolutely GORGEOUS items! I am completely blown away by Kiefferceramics flower vessel. Wow!

  • theaxx

    theaxx said 8 years ago

    This is just crazy fabu! I want to redeck out all my kitchen ceramincs now! thea. xx

  • GlazedOver

    GlazedOver said 8 years ago

    Again, another informative, well written piece. Thank you for whetting the appetite so eloquently!

  • NewMoonStudio

    NewMoonStudio said 8 years ago

    Wonderful creations! I congratulate you all!

  • MAKUstudio

    MAKUstudio said 8 years ago

    These artists do incredible work! Great article!

  • mossyrockpottery

    mossyrockpottery said 8 years ago

    Love the article, it features some of my very favorite potters. Vehry nyce...

  • Studio111

    Studio111 said 8 years ago

    Beautiful items!

  • ancientfragments

    ancientfragments said 8 years ago

    Great Article. Thanks for giving ceramics a boost!

  • ApplewoodHandwovens

    ApplewoodHandwovens said 8 years ago

    MORE wonderful show and tell, great followup, informative and nicely done!

  • CenterHillClayWorks

    CenterHillClayWorks said 8 years ago

    Great article. Just amazing all the creative ideas.

  • freeforged

    freeforged said 8 years ago

    Beautiful and very comprehensive!

  • Tina669

    Tina669 said 8 years ago

    So beautiful!

  • underoakstudios

    underoakstudios said 8 years ago

    These are so beautiful! I forgot I hated ed hardy for a second.

  • TimmerysBebeBling

    TimmerysBebeBling said 7 years ago

    AWESOME pieces!!! Thanks for sharing all the info.

  • brianarose

    brianarose said 7 years ago

    BAAAH! I absolutely love all of thos ideas!

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