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Low Fire Friday - Red Iron Oxide Wash

Meagan Chaney Gumpert - Friday, May 03, 2013
I'm often asked how I get the dark, carved lines in a lot of my work. 

This simple recipe is an old stand by! It's just a 50/50 mix by volume of stain/oxide and Frit 3124. (ie 1 spoonful of each ingredient.) 

Red Iron Oxide Wash

1 Tablespoon Red Iron Oxide
1 Tablespoon Frit 3124

How much water? Well, that depends. When I want the carved lines to stay dark, I only add enough water to be able to mix the ingredients and still be able to brush them on. I typically like to apply this wash to bone dry greenware and then bisque fire it to cone 06.

But this wash can also be used to accentuate texture. A thin coat can be applied to the entire surface of a bisqued form and then sponged off. The raised surfaces will be wiped clean, and the wash will remain in the carved or recessed areas. This technique was used over underglazes in the collaborative Arrowmont Official Birthday Mug project I talked about here.

This simple recipe also has endless variations. Red iron oxide isn't the only oxide that can be used. Experiment with chrome oxide for a green wash, cobalt carbonate for a blue, etc. Or, like we used in the Arrowmont Official Birthday Mug, a black mason stain. Yep, this recipe works with mason stains too. 

Or, you could substitute another frit. I've chosen Frit 3124 because it doesn't run too much during a cone 04 glaze fire, and is pretty opaque. Depending on your needs, you could try Frit 3195 if you want a more transparent wash with just a little bit of flow. Check out this cone 04 Frit Melt Test. I made this handy reference years ago, and it has been extremely helpful in determining the differences between frits.

Well, folks, that's it for this segment of Low Fire Friday. Anyone out there using a colored wash they are happy with and willing to share? What other applications are available?

Mary commented on 03-May-2013 06:24 PM
Thanks for the post. So you carve out the lines and then add that mix by painting into the curved lines you carved out and then bisque fire? I love those forms.

I was just wondering about doing a piece that has already been bisqued. If I wanted that cool effect of the stain with the colours, could I still do it? And would it work if I painted that stain over the whole piece, washed it off and then painted it with colours?

As always, love to read your posts.
Jonni commented on 04-May-2013 12:08 AM
Nice post! Please tell me what those precious round things are used for...
Meagan Chaney Gumpert commented on 04-May-2013 10:13 AM
Hi Ladies,

Thanks for your questions!

Jonni - I call those little round pieces my Mini Sculptures. They were originally inspired by sea urchins, but that have since taken on a life of their own.

They are slab-built and hollow. Also there is a hole cut in the back so that they can hang on the wall if you want. They are generally sold/installed in groups of 3 or more. Sometimes as many as 100!

Currently, I am only make them for wholesale orders. The ones pictured above will be shipped to a gallery in Wisconsin when they are done. Occasionally, if there are a few remaining after filling an order, I will post these on etsy. Keep an eye out!

Mary - Yes! I carve out the lines and then brush on the red iron oxide mix by painting into the curved lines and then bisque fire.

You can apply the oxide wash to the carved areas after bisque. It will work fine, but is a bit messy. I've found that if I wait to do it on the bisque form, and then continue to brush on the colored glazes into the sections, I end up with red iron oxide all over my hands! (The exception to this is if I'm wanting to sponge off most of the oxide wash anyway, just to accentuate texture.)

It would "work" if you painted that stain over the whole piece, washed it off and then painted it with colors. You would probably get a different look though. More weathered maybe. Or the oxide wash would settle into recessed areas and just accentuate texture. Give it a try. I'd love to hear and see how it came out!

Hope that helps Ladies! If you have any other questions, please just let me know!

Mary commented on 03-Aug-2013 12:37 PM
Hi Meagan,
I've created some pieces and I'm going to be bisque firing them this weekend. I'm just wondering if you can stack pieces that you have put your wash on? I've created "grooves" into the pieces and then painted the red iron oxide wash into the grooves. But they are flat tiles and I want to stack at least two (as I don't have enough kiln shelves!). They won't stick at all, will they? I don't think that frit is glossy, but I'm not entirely sure. I"ll send you pictures when I fire them!
Ellen Zook Osborn commented on 09-Dec-2013 04:56 PM
Hi, Megan -- I have the same question that Mary has...about stacking pieces. I use a small kraft kiln for earthenware nativity figures. I just did an art project today with school kids -- flat tiles from terracotta clay that they stamped with texture. I was thinking it would be nice to try a red iron oxide wash, but wasn't sure about stacking them...

Meagan Chaney Gumpert commented on 16-Dec-2013 01:23 PM
Hi Ellen,

You shouldn't have a problem stacking the pieces with the red iron oxide wash if you using it sparingly or wipe it away to highlight texture. I'd be careful if you apply it thick on a surface (as opposed to in a groove) because the frit could still flux out and stick some.

Hope that helps. And I'd love a picture of the kids' tiles when you're finished.


PS - Sorry for the delayed reply. Mary emailed me as well and I answered her questions, but forgot to post a response here.
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