Using Shellac Resist on Pottery

Shellac resist on pottery…

Using shellac, or wax resist is a wonderful but time intensive way to create a relief pattern. I start this process using a piece of pottery that is fully dry. The first step is to draw a design on the porcelain, (porcelain works best because there is no sand or grog in it). Planning drawings and patterns involves thinking about both the positive and negative space. For this particular piece of pottery shown in the video below, I have created a grid, then an abstract leaf pattern. This pattern is ancient, and can be found everywhere from the tiles of Islam, to early American quilts. The positive and negative space on this grid leaf pattern creates an optical illusion. Some of my favorite images of this come from quilts.

Once I have penciled in the imagery I paint over it with wax resist. The wax will burn out in the kiln firing. Some potters use shellac, but I am not fond of the smell. After the wax or shellac is totally dry, (an hour or so), I begin to sponge off the clay around the imagery. This slowly takes away as much or as little clay that you want. I have to be careful at this point not to go through the clay where it is thin! When I want to get into the tiny detailed spots I use an old dental tool and carve away the wax, then wipe that area with the sponge. After a day or so I can then put it in the kiln for the first firing.

The next step is the glazing and the glaze firing. The photo below shows a few finished urns glazed in a clear glaze, which allows for the pure white porcelain to shine through. You can find these on

shellac resist on pottery, white on white petals urn


Glaze Dip Video

Glaze Dip, a “Quick Pottery” video.

This is one of my “Quick Pottery” videos to demonstrate how wax resist is used to create a pattern when brushed over a base glaze then dipped in a second glaze. The first glaze that I use is a nice medium blue matt glaze. I then paint on a wax resist pattern of leaves and vines, I let the wax resist dry, and dip it into a dark blue glaze. Take a look at the video on my You tube channel!

The urn that is pictured in the video was sold shortly after it came out of the kiln. Last week I did make a couple more like it, and just glazed them up today. See the photo below. They will go in the firing next week… just hoping they come out as good as the first one! If all comes out as planned look for them on my shop page at


ready for the kiln

Shellac/Wax Resist Process Video

For those of you how are wondering how does that white on white pattern happen on those tall white urns. Here is a short one minute video so you can see how it’s done.  Enjoy!

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Carved, Etched, Engraved, Incised?

Urn Process Wax Resist method

How do you do that? Are these carved, etched, engraved, incised? These are the questions I inevitably get asked when people see these urns. The above photo is work in process – where you can see the green wax resist pattern/decoration on the porcelain clay. This method is called shellac resist or water etching. The medium I choose is wax rather than shellac, mainly because I don’t like the odor of the shellac. They both work the same way in terms of resisting the water from my sponge as I rub the surface of the clay (water abraision). So I guess in a sense they are carved, incised, engraved or etched… just put the word water in front of those words. Water incised clay, water etched clay, water carved clay, water engraved clay. Potters just tend to say shellac resist method!

To see these finished urns just go to my urn page here on the website.