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terra sig or burnishing

updated wed 30 aug 06


Alistair Gillies on tue 29 aug 06

Apologies for changing the title of the post but for some reason it was
going to spam.....

I agree with Snail - and incidentally have taught ceramics in what we call
secondary schools for 15 yrs.

If you give the youngsters a 'magic ingredient' [terra sig] then they will
believe that you need it. Terra Sig is an aid to provide a high level of
finish, not a basic burnishing tool.- youngsters will go 'wow' with the
effects of a spoon or pebble on clay - remember that they will not have seen
this before - with clay work you are constant introducing them to new and
interesting / taxing things.

Using spoons is useful as they have to exercise some control over the spoon
or the edge will cut in - i.e. they cannot do it whilst just having a chat -
well, they may briefly have to pause ocassionally:-).
Perhaps, have them burnish around a design that they have drawn - they will
have to concentrate more and the edge of the spoon comes in handy to produce
a slightly lowered surround which creates more of a feature of the design -
in my experience this can be a good teaching point.


Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, England

From: "Snail Scott"
> No! I don't know any Indians that use terra sig -
> that's a European method. They do it the plain,
> ordinary (and very cheap) way - rub it 'til it's
> shiny. That's all. A smooth rock like an agate
> is great, but the back of a metal spoon will do
> a dandy job, too.
> Have them smooth it once with the spoons while
> it's stiff leather-hard. When the clay is mostly
> dry - hard and getting lighter-colored, but not
> fully dried, start burnishing. Many people add
> a light swipe of water or mineral oil at this
> stage, as they work. Be careful not to add too
> much water, or to wet any part that was already
> burnished. The mineral oil is safer, in the
> sense that adding too much won't destroy the pot,
> but water is free. You can do without either,
> also; the added lubricant just makes it go a
> little easier.
> If you want to get the effect of matte designs
> with the shiny backgound, just paint them with
> a thin slip of the same clay, after burnishing.
> The slip designs will stay matte. Sometimes it
> can flake off the shiny surface; keeping it
> very thin will help prevent that.
> Terra sig is handy in that it eliminates the
> elbow grease: just apply, swipe with a soft
> cloth, and you're done. Personally, though,
> I figure a little work won't harm the kids a
> bit, and it'll give them a sense of investment
> in the outcome, since the relationship between
> the effort and the result is so very direct
> and clear.
> -Snail
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