Considerations and Logistics: Slip Trailing

Posted by on Apr 9, 2011 in Casserole, How-to, Lime Fiesta, Mugs, Slip Trailing, Spring Snow, Surface Decoration | 4 comments

Mug Trio

Insight:  Embellishing the pot surface is more complex than simply adding slip or carving a design. As with most things, one decision impacts several others  which means that there are several considerations and some logistics to work through as I incorporate textural elements into the pots.

Among the many surface embellishments that we have been experimenting with are:

  • Slip trailing
  • Carving
  • Brush strokes
  • Tape and wax resist

Casserole with slip trailed design

Implementation of each of these techniques has challenged technique, method, glaze response, and design.

Technical – This has been the easiest of the logistics to resolve.  It included adjusting the consistency of the slip (less viscous for narrower lines and more viscous for dots and wide lines).    Also, in order to apply a slip line that is fluid with variable line weights, it must be done quickly.  I am practicing a lot in order to develop muscle memory.  Slip lines and dots have potential to be sharp, but smoothing out sharp edges can result in removing the slip from the pot.  A finger rub and dry-damp sponge seem to soften the edges without much design loss.

Method – I have tried several dispensers to figure out which make the best lines and which are better for making dots.  So far, a narrow tip hair dye bottle and red bulb slip trailer are easiest for me to use and produce good lines and dots.

Glaze response – Understanding the properties each glaze exhibits has been key.  Some of the glazes don’t break or are too pale and the slip gets lost.  The best glazes for enhancing slip design are translucent or break with contrast.

Design – By far this has been the most challenging.  First, there is the question of what patterns to make on the pot.  I have been doodling and looking at fabrics to develop some ideas.  Then there is the question of how these patterns relate to the pot’s form.  I have begun to change some of the pot shapes in order to designate space for slip design.  This allows me to build in a ‘frame’ where I can start and stop the slip.  I thought I had resolved some forms (like mugs) but slip has forced me to expand my shape vocabulary.


  1. Rae:

    Your surface techniques are lovely. They really add so much to your work. It is very inspiring the way you and Julie approach your craft and how you are always taking it in new directions and different levels.

    The under glaze – the matte – it sets off the surface decoration immensely – the contrast is so nice.

    • Thanks so much. Change isn’t easy – and it is a bit scary. What has helped the most to implement these elements is understanding how the glaze will respond. The bottom line: know thy glaze!

  2. So I know consistency matters, but what consistency is good? How thick is too thick for say the dots and swirls you have on your upright pieces–pancake batter, yogurt, honey, molasses viscosity? I tried sliptrailing once a long time ago and it looked fine at first but ended up running and not sticking exactly where I placed it.

    • I wish I could give you a formula – complete with specific gravity so you can check your slip with a hydrometer. But I can’t. It depends on what tool you use and what sort of design you are attempting to create. A narrow gauge tool needs thinner slip (heavy cream); a wide gauge tool needs thicker slip (yogurt). But, no worries, you can practice with a consistency and if it doesn’t work, you can wipe it off the pot and start again! Slip is very forgiving.

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