How to Make Perfect Pottery With the Burnishing Technique

Today we will be talking about the burnishing department and the polishment of our pottery.

The burnishing of handmade ceramics is an ancient technique that was used a lot by the early potters to make their pottery harder and watertight.

Nowadays, we mostly use glazes for that purpose.

But we still need to burnish and polish our pieces before being fired.

Burnished pottery has a very beautiful earthy feel and look.

It is indeed a very special and characteristic stage in the journey of our ceramics.


Burnish definition

Burnishing pottery is rubbing the surface of the clay body with a hard object to achieve an even and polished surface.

This is done after the clay body has been cast, and before the first firing.


Our journey so far…

A quick recap of this journey so far:

  • First, we have to design our new shapes, make the first model, the mother-mold and then the plaster molds. You can learn all about it here.
  • Once the molds are ready, we can start filling them with the famous method of slip casting.

As you know, the last step in the slip casting method is the removal of the greenware from the molds and leaving it to dry overnight to be burnished the following day.

They need to be polished before the first firing because they have many imperfections as you can see below.

Greenware that needs to be polished.

Once the greenware is in the bone-dry state (which is when the clay body no longer feels cold to the touch), our skilled women will start with the polishing process.


Burnishing pottery

Before starting, these greenware pieces must be clean, and without any dust and dirt.

The first step is the burnishing of the piece with a blade.

There’s a seam that needs to be removed in most pieces, because of the slip casting process.

Removing the seam and burnishing the piece with a blade.

Polishing pottery

To make sure the pieces have an even and smooth surface, we must polish them after they’ve been burnished.

Below you can see this skilled worker using a wet sponge to polish the surface of the greenware, and making sure it has a perfectly smooth and even clay body.

Polishing the clay body.

The final result

Behold, a perfectly burnished and polished greenware piece…

A burnished piece.

After the greenware is polished and ready to go, we have to let it dry once again (because of the wet sponge) before being fired for the first time.


What’s next?

We’re still midway in our journey.

The next step is the first firing – the one that will turn greenware into bisque ware.

Do you know what bisque ware is?

Stick with us, and you shall find out soon everything about it.

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