Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Glazes - Malcolm Davis Shino

As far as I know, every pottery teacher has had that charming moment when a new student joyously announces they've just found out that Malcolm Davis is an actual person, not just the name of their favorite, confounding, elusive glaze.

And what an amazing actual person he was!  Most everyone in the clay community is aware that we lost a great teacher, spirit and voice this month. The Washington Post wrote this obituary  chronicling some of the highlights of Malcolm's life and career.

Part of the rich legacy Malcolm leaves behind, of course, includes his eponymous glaze.  Malcolm Davis Shino is traditionally fired to cone 10... but we've been firing it to cone 6 (unaltered) for many years with wonderful results.

Here's the recipe to try - fired in reduction, of course, cone 6 or 10 or anything in between... and quite possibly even lower.  All the pieces pictured below were fired to cone 6 in medium reduction in our car kiln.

Malcolm Davis Shino
Soda Ash 16.3
OM-4   13
EPK 17
F-4 Soda Feldspar 9.3
Neph Sy 38.6
Red Art 5.7

Below are 40 different things to try with shino.  Part of this list was originally published in Studio Potter magazine in 2003.  People have been experimenting and adding to it ever since. 

1. Rather than mix each batch fresh, add 1/2 batch when old batch is 1/2 gone;
2. Use wax resist or shellack to cover parts of a pot;
3. Use plastic wrap to cover parts of a pot;
4. Place glazed ware in dry sawdust, perforated bags, bubble-wrap, textured paper, or packing peanuts to influence patterning caused by drying;
5. Stack glazed pots to dry;
6. Dry glazed pots touching one another or crowded together;
7. Dry with coils of wet clay, shells, etc. on flat surfaces;
8. Apply wax with foam stamps, splatter on with fingers, trail with slip trailer;
9. Splatter water on surface of glazed pots with fingers or tooth brush;
10. Spray soda ash solution on glazed pots;
11. Sprinkle wood ash (or mix of wood ash and soda ash) on freshly-glazed pot;
12. Dry open pots upside down;
13. Dry pots in front of heater or fan or repeatedly mist/spritz with water;
14. Bury in wood chips;
15. For luster, brush/spray high-iron glaze over;
16. Try saggars – or build up around pots with hard bricks/broken shelves;
17. Add some common salt/kosher salt/rock salt;
18. Substitute different feldspars, kaolins, spodumenes, ball clays;
19. Re-fire to biscuit temperature in electric kiln (cone 06);
20. Vary the percentage of soda ash (from 0% to 20%);
21. Substitute amblygonite for ceramic-grade spodumene; it has lower thermal expansion and higher  phosphorus content;

22. Soak biscuit in soda ash solution;
23. Test over iron and iron/manganese washes;
24. Fire test tile dipped in copper-red right next to Shino pot; spritz copper-red glaze over glazed pots before firing; or try adding copper carbonate to the Shino glaze;
25. Dampen/spritz areas of biscuit with water or damp sponge before glazing;
26. Aim heat gun or hair dryer across ware board of freshly glazed Shino pots;
27. Spray hair spray over glazed pot;
28. Use thin wash of temmoku glaze or a gunmetal glaze (containing manganese) over a Shino-glazed pot;
29. Try spraying Shino glaze, varying placement, overlap, vary density;
30. Apply soda ash or wood directly on pot after glazing; spray first with spray adhesive if pot is too dry for ash to stick;
31. Spatter iron oxide wash over freshly-glazed pot with toothbrush;
32. Try thin washes of ocher, manganese or copper carbonate;
33. Sgraffito – scratch through pattern on shino glaze.
34. Place your pot in the freezer for an hour before glazing
35. Stuff plastic wrap inside your vessel for a few days while the glaze is drying and salt crystals are forming
36. Use blue masking tape or damp strips of newspaper on top of a freshly glazed pot to influence drying irregularity.  Remove tape before firing :- )
37. Use underglazes to paint designs on bisque before glazing
38. Rub black underglaze or red iron oxide wash into textures of your clay before glazing
39. Apply the glaze thinly over recently washed bisque, then re-dip/re-spray two or three days later
40. Mix two different shinos together in a spray bottle container and spray your bisque.  Try a 50/50 blend to start.
41. Use your finger to run lines and patterns through the salt crystals that form on the surface of a dry glazed pot.

Please leave a comment if there's something else you'd recommend trying!


  1. This is great information. I printed your article and posted it on the glaze wall at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. We've been firing it to Cone 10 in our gas kiln, and love it. Can't wait to try some of your suggestions. thanks!

  2. I'm new to clay work. Will these tips and glazes apply to an electric kiln?

    1. Shinos are reduction fired in a fuel burning atmosphere... You might try some of these techniques with other glazes.

    2. If you live in a area where they allow burning, you can make a wood/gas kiln for about $800. I have made a wood kiln out of 4 layers of fiberfrax and fire it to cone 10. You could even make a cast kiln for a little less.

  3. What is the specific gravity of the Malcolm Davis Shino when applied to bisque ware?

  4. Thank you for this blog and tribute to Malcolm. The suggestions are fantastic.

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