Glazing isn't the only way to create beautiful clay surfaces!
Agateware pottery features swirling, marbleized colors and was probably first developed to imitate the qualities of agate, a semi-precious stone with striated patterning.
These swirling effects can be created by working with thin slabs of colored clay that have been layered together to make patterns that are both precise and random.
Agateware was introduced around 1730 by Dr. Thomas Wedgewood of Rowley's Pottery in Staffordshire, England. The random mingling of colored clays such as red and buff gave a broad veining to domestic and ornamental pieces. The English potter Thomas Wheildon greatly improved agateware in the 1740s by using white clays stained with metallic oxides. Repeatedly mixing different layers of brown, white, and green or blue clay yielded a striated, marbled effect.
- Familiarize yourself with Agateware.
- Cover your work surface with canvas.
- Using a wire cutting tool, cut a 2" thick slice of white clay and a 1" thick slice of red clay.
- Stack the slice of red clay directly on top of the slice of white clay.
- On a canvas-covered surface, combine the two colors with a rolling pin. Turn and flip the clay repeatedly and roll it out until you've created a slab that is approximately 1/4" thick.
- Trim the irregular edges of the slab with a needle tool to create a rectangle. Start at one end of the slab and roll it up, "jelly roll-style." Or, if desired, you can make a square shape by pressing the sides of the roll against your work surface (See B).
- Cut the roll into even slices approximately 1/2" thick with a wire tool. Notice the spiral design (See A). Place the pieces side by side in rows with their edges touching (B).
- Roll over the top of the slices to combine them into a patterned slab. Turn the slab over and roll over it on the other side. Make sure there are no gaps in the slab (See C).
- At this point, the patterned slab may be cut apart and reassembled to form an infinite variety of designs (See D). Try cutting the slab into strips and offsetting them or flipping every other strip upside-down. After making your cuts, reassemble the pieces and roll over them again to combine them.
- Make a vase or a bowl shape by hand or by draping the patterned slab into or over a bowl form or a plaster mold.
- Once the piece is dry, paint it with Gloss Medium.
- Add additional colors to your clay mix.
- Experiment with other forms made with slabs.