Sunday, July 29, 2012

Printing on clay, again.

I presented a workshop on printing on clay yesterday at The Potters Market in O'Connor, Perth.   Although it was pretty cold, being the Australian winter, I felt very welcome by the Proprietor Julie Drury and the atmosphere was warm as I already had a connection with about one third of the audience.  My intentions to get some pots thrown the night before on which to print, were thwarted by the cold, I had the good sense to stay warm at home.  We covered all the usual things and a little more :-

  • transferring your own drawings onto clay using tissue and under glaze
  • using Japanese printed tissue transfers, 
  • printing your own with silkscreens 
  • decals, making your own
  • open stock decals
  • making, using and firing iron oxide laser decals
  • making your own rubber stamps and printing with them.  
I try to pack in many techniques to make it good value but it is so easy to overdo it and cause information overload.  I've been teaching this introductory workshop for a few years now and tinker with it each time.  There are techniques I want to offer but some could only really work in a one topic workshop as some processes are a bit complex in sequence.  But that is the nature of ceramics isn't it?  It is all about materials, processes, options and let's not forget skill, no small factor.

Fellow blogger and clay pal Patricia Fernandes who makes porcelain jewellery and home wares, kindly took photos for me to share (must brush hair, fix lipstick, suck tummy in, wear brighter clothes and aprons for photos in future and smile more often - tut).
Elaine Bradley explaining the use of decals
The class were a great bunch, good humoured and quick with the wit and insights.  I love teaching and it is all about the people when you teach.  Potters 'Rock'.

Here I am below applying a tissue print  to a slab of clay.

Very briefly ....
  1. Take a wide hake brush, dip brush in water and then remove the excess water leaving you with a wet but not sopping brush.
  2. Have a glass or mirror tile ready.  Dip brush into powdered under glaze or oxide of any colour (with some fritt added) and draw it across the tile in long even brushstrokes to lay down an area of wet pigment.
  3. Allow the under glaze to dry, or use a gentle hairdryer to assist.  
  4. Lay a sheet of tissue paper (10c from art shops) and tape it tautly over the pigment area.
  5. Use a soft pencil or good roller ball to draw or write what you wish to transfer to clay. Do not touch the paper area except when using the drawing implement or it will smudge)
  6. Remove the paper (use a scalpel for ease)  your image is on the reverse of the tissue paper.
  7. Apply face down to the work you onto which are transferring print.
The flower and handwriting are mine but the little bird was done by simply pressing a store bought rubber stamp onto the tissue over the tile and pigment.  You could stamp directly onto the pigment and then onto the clay too, and of course, you can have rubber stamps made up from your own artwork or better still carve your own.  

The tile and pigment, the tissue, and the print.

There you are how's that for a freebie little lesson for you? Is this blog good value or what?   Paul Scott taught me that method.  It is useful  if you want to apply your own text or handwriting onto your work.  One potter at my workshop had the most enviable beautiful script.  If you try this technique please comment here or email me to tell me how you like it.

drybrushing underglaze/fritt onto soft slab using a Riso Screen #100 mesh
Most people know I am a great fan of RISO Screens (available from or Jacksons Art Supplies) as they are cheap, reusable, lightweight and easy to clean and store.  I use these on paper, cloth and ceramics.  Every high school or art school should have a Thermal Printer to make Riso Screens.   Perth folk just have to talk to a Jacksons branch to organise getting a screen made for them, (you need a high contrast black and white non tonal image). Van in the Beaufort Street shop is happy to help.  

Here I am above silk screening the 'ink' of bright blue under glaze/fritt and print media across a large Riso screen on to a sheet of tissue paper.  Below I have applied the tissue onto a slab of clay and am using a rubber kidney to gently ensure 'contact' so the print transfers to the clay.  This works on soft to medium leather hard clay with some moisture still in it.  It is part of an old medieval image.
And below is the TADAA!! moment of pulling away the tissue to reveal a nice print.
At the end of a workshop I make all my materials and tools available for people to try out, it is always fun and nobody ever abuses it.

Patricia Fernandes, if you read this, bless you girl for the photos.  Lindsay, Prina, Marika, Merilyn, Tijana, Marie and everyone else - it was a joy to have you there.

But wait, there's more!  In the middle of the day my lovely husband Henry Sheil dropped in on his motorbike, to borrow my car to take a son to a hip-hop dance class, then returned and set about replacing a blown brake light bulb for me.  Mmmmm!  Impressed?  I was.
So, shall we pop over to Mud Colony to see what other potters are chatting about on their blogs?  Come on .... X Elaine


  1. Looks like a great day!
    I have been hanging out to do some printing on clay...
    but not being a particularly tidy girl I think it will end up being a bit free form 8\

  2. Great post need to come to Melbourne :)

  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome. There are some good books out there on the subject these days.

  4. It looks like a good class! Thanks for the mini tutorial on the tissue transfer.

    1. Thanks Amy. it was fun and it was kind of Patricia Fernandes to take the photos.

  5. Fantastic, Elaine, now I know what I am going to do today.

  6. AnonymousJuly 27, 2013

    I agree with Adriana, you need to come to Melbourne!!

  7. mmmm...just love those pots in the background of the first photo!!! x

    1. mmmm ME TOO!! The artist is one of my favourite people in the world actually. Ahem LOL

  8. Where can I find you in Perth, do you have a studio or workshop?

    1. I'm so sorry for not seeing this question before now. I have two studios in Perth, one at home and one in Fremantle. I sometimes teach about printing on clay at The Potter's Market O'Connor, Tresillian Centre Nedlands, Fremantle Art Centre or in my studio.

  9. What a wonderful idea. As I am in Canada and not likely to get to Australia for a workshop, could you please tell me the ratio of oxiode to frit and underglaze to frit? Thanks.

  10. I've been teaching this introductory workshop for a few years now and tinker with it each time. There are techniques I want to offer but some could only really work in a one topic workshop as some processes are a bit complex in sequence. But that is the nature of ceramics isn't it?

    OKI C831-TS T-shirt Printer

  11. Hi, this is great, but im foing something wrong. Is your enamal still a bit damp? Mines not, but it dries really hard and isnt transferring. Any clues, or further hints?

    1. Hi Unknown - you'll have to tell me what exactly you are doing so that I can reply. I wasn't using enamel - I was using powdered underglaze mixed into a print medium to a wet syrupy paste/ink. Ceramic powders seem very, very fine until you're trying to push it through a silkscreen. The mesh size of your screen is very important. The average screen mesh used for paper or textiles is usually too fine and the ceramic pigments won't push through.

    2. Hi, Kirsty here. I was trying to do a tissue transfer, but it just wasn't picking up the paint. I think ill try a different medium

  12. Dear Elaine, you are the only one critiquing your looks. ;) you obviously love your work and that is what we see. Thank you for sharing with us your techniques. Perhaps some day i can make it to Australia to work in your cold winter. I bet your clay doesn't freeze rock solid like mine does here in Canada;) I also love Tijana and Marie being listed together as Tyana Marie is my daughter's name. I must get some powdered glazes and oxides to try this out. Hio from Alberta, Canada.

  13. Hello Elaine,
    I was thrilled to see this blog of yours as I have been printing on clay over here in the UK. However I am coming over to Perth in October to visit family and would love to see your work at some point and maybe a workshop if you are doing one at that time? Thank you for your wonderful blog! Andrea

  14. Hi Elaine,
    thanks so much for this blog. I am a potter in the UK and am visiting Perth in October. Will you be doing workshops then at all? I also have done printing on clay with mixed results! A wonderful surprise to see your blog! Andrea

    1. Thanks Andrea. I have nothing planned yet for October but that might change.

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