Decorating Objects Created through Pottery

Decoration adds a touch of aestheticism to any scenario and pottery is no exception to this rule. To this effect, decoration is one of the simplest as also most common means of beautifying pottery and rendering it attractive. In order to be decorated, objects of pottery need not be subjected to heat treatment as this does not impact the outcome in any way. 

Described as follows are some of the ways which are used the world over for adorning objects of pottery - 


Using paints has been inherent to human civilization ever since its inception and pottery has always served as a viable canvas for creating paint-based works of art. Painting designs on pottery range from being a picture of simplicity to intricate artworks which depict every tiny detail. To a great extent, paintings made on pottery objects is reflective of the era in which it had been made, meaning just by observing the style of painting on the surface, a trained historian would be in a position to classify the shard as to a particular period in history. 

A rule which is universally followed while painting on pottery is that colors should always be added subsequent to objects having been fired since the colors are prone to change on being exposed to heat. Likewise, glaze is applied afterwards and could also make a difference to the shades. 


Glaze is a gel-like substance that may be transparent and colorless or opaque and colored and  it is applied on the object's surface not just for the sake of decoration but for affording protection against water too. Application of glaze on objects made out of clay is a common practice the world over and is followed as a part of unversal standard procedure. 


Before the clay hardens completely, its surface is malleable enough to bear the imprint of a knife and this is how carving is done to decorate pottery. That said, the carving is shallow in nature and is mostly typical of porcelain objects, particularly those created during the classic era. 


Sometimes pottery objects are rubbed with wood, stone or steel prior to being subjected to heat treatment so that their surfaces acquire a polished appearance. This is known as burnishing and it is used specifically for fine varieties of clay that have low moisture content. While the outcome of burnishing is undoubtedly exquisite, it adds an element of fragility owing to which these are extremely prone to breakages. 

Using Additives

Additives are substances that are added to clay to satisfy a variety of criteria like changing of color or texture and creating patterns and hence are regarded as part of decoration. For example, sand and grog are added to clay to render the surface of the object coarse, carbonates and metal oxides are added to provide color and combustible particles for providing texture. 


Also known as 'decal', it is used to transfer designs on to the surface of clay objects through various methods which may be mechanized or manual. The process of lithography is comoprised of three layers wherein the first layer is that of the design, the second layer is the cover coat which acts as a protection and the third layer is the backing paper on which the design is printed. 


If a band of color is applied manually or through a machine on to the edge of a clay object while it is still at the potter's wheel, the process is referred to as banding or lining. 


Named as such owing to the presence of agate, a quartz mineral, objects under this category are popular for their mottled appearance wherein the colors are blended and yet retain their distinct individual hue. Creation of agateware requires plenty of thought because the varieties of clay need to be selected on the basis of their compatibility in terms of color and reaction to heat. 


Technically known as slipping, this method is employed to mask the imperfections on the surface of the clay object so that it appears uniform and smooth. Engobe is also resorted to for sgraffito decoration wherein two coats of different colors are applied so that when the one on top is scratched, it reveals the underlying layer. 

Decorating with gold

There are multiple ways in which gold can be used to decorate pottery and they vary from mixing gold powder before putting the object in the kiln as in best gold to etching on the surface as in acid gold and rubbing gold leaf with salt and sugar as in mussel gold. Amongst these, acid gold is a technique wherein the object would need to be burnished in order to reveal the gold hue and mussel gold, being an old method, requires the object to be washed so as to remove any soluble remnants.