A decoration that is painted with under-glaze colors on top of an unfired opaque glaze is referred to as a Majolica decoration. The term “Majolica” originated many hundreds of years ago. During those early centuries most of the available clay was of a dark color which made decorating with brilliant colors difficult. Gradually the eastern potters learned that tin added to a transparent glaze would render it opaque, but tin was scarce. About the year 1500, many potters from the east, especially the Moors, were carrying their ware to the island of Majorca, off the coast of Spain, and since Spain was rich in tin, before long the potters added tin to their transparent glaze, producing a hard white opaque glaze. With this glaze covering the dark body of the clay, bright colors could be used effectively. The new ware was given the name “Majolica” and became very popular when it was brought into Italy. It is still used widely as a means of decorating ceramics.
Although today we are fortunate in having a wide selection of white clay bodies to choose from, thus eliminating the necessity of resorting to Majolica as the only means of decorating with bright colors, Majolica decoration possesses a charm that makes it attractive to modern-day ceramists. The effect derived from painting with under-glazes on top of the unfired glaze is totally different from that of an orthodox under-glaze decoration and the procedure is necessarily different too.
First glaze the ceramic piece with a white opaque glaze. Painting over a coat of unfired glaze is difficult, so give the glazed piece a light coat of gum tragacanth before attempting further decorating. Do not use a pencil to sketch the design on the piece because the point is likely to mar the glaze. Instead, brush the design on with diluted India ink or vegetable dye which will burn out completely during the firing and will, in addition, provide Continue reading