Engobe is clay sludge that you can use as an option to decorate your work. Mixing Engobe with Iron Oxides or pigments gives you different colours. This technique is used for the first firing (the first time the ceramic goes into the oven). Engobe can be used under a glaze or as a matte decoration if you decide you don’t want to glaze again after the firing process. This form of decorating has been used for thousands of years: For example the classic Greek vases with red and black figures on them. Engobe is very easy to make. You just mix clay with water and sieve it through a fine sieve. Then you add the other ingredients. There’s not just one recipe for this, there are many! By playing with them and seeing which one works best for you, you can decide how the colour turns out.
Ordinary engobe is made of 100% clay and possibly other color pigments. The Sinter Engobe contains a flux that ensures the clay sludge sticks to the clay surface. Sinter Engobe has a different look than regular engobe- it’s a little shinier. It can be used on wet clay but still works on dry and biscuit baked clay.
When using engobe, it’s important that you use a clay that matches well with the clay of the piece you’re working on. This is because the shrinkage rates can differ and can change the whole look of your piece. It’s preferred that you apply the engobe on leather hard clay. For a fuller coverage, you may need to apply 2-3 coats. Engobe is easy to apply. What’s nice is that you can see the result after the first firing.This makes it easier than glazing.
Engobe has a consistency similar to paint so it can be experimented with the same way. You can apply it with a brush, pour it, dip it, spray it on, use a sponge or a roller to apply it. You can also use it with a slip trail, feather, marble, or a stencil. You can make wax or latex recesses, graffiti, inlay and even Terra Sigillata. A couple of methods have been elaborated, below.
You use the clay sludge in a tool called a Slip Applicator. A Slip Applicator is made of plastic or rubber and has several interchangeable spouts on a squeeze ball or bottle. The clay sludge is sucked up with the rubber ball or can be put in the small bottle and applied on the clay surface through the spout. The clay sludge should have a thick consistency to prevent the pattern from spreading. As with most things, the spouts, speed and movements take time to perfect!
Stencils can be made of any material that prevents water (or only allows a little bit of water) from passing through after the process. Generally, they are made of paper, plastic or fabric. Pre-made stencils are available for purchase in store but you can also create your own design. You can also use things with pre-made patterns, lace is a great example. When using stencils, it’s important that the stencil is tight and flat to the clay without any spaces in between. This ensures your pattern is true to the shape and applied correctly. If you find a piece of sludge isn’t adhered to the stencil, you can detach a small point from the stencil and slowly peel it off.
Engobe aspect of Ceramics Course
Engobe is part of my ceramic course and is covered in the Decorating Module. In this, you will learn how to apply this decorating technique to your own work.