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Feather Combed Ornaments

Feather Combed Ornaments

In an effort to make the store festive for the holidays, the Rovin crew decided to make our own ornaments to adorn wreathes and garland which we hung from the doors and window frames.  Instead of going with the old standard underglazed slab ornaments, we decided to attempt something new.  With three brand new mason stains at hand and on our minds, we decided to try feather combing!
You may have heard about marbling with slip, which is a decorating technique that first became popular in 17th Century England. In that same time period, feather combing was developed.  You could say Feather combing is in the same family as the slip marbling technique.  They may be cousins, but feather combing is the more precise, type-A cousin of marbling.  Feather combing requires a steady hand and the desire to create something quite precise and detailed, as opposed to the fluid and organic quality of marbleizing. 
I found that though our finished ornaments looked complicated and advanced, the project was EASY.  I cannot stress that word enough, E-A-S-Y!  The finished ornaments, look far more complicated than the actual process of decorating was.  After the first one or two, I became a feather combing machine, or maybe addict is a better word.  In half an hour, the whole Rovin team sat down and cranked out 40 very impressive ornaments – if I do say so myself.   We had so much fun; two days later we invited all of our Motawi Tileworks friends to come and make ornaments too!
This would be a fantastic project to do with friends or family over the course of the holiday season if you are looking to spread joy through your clay prowess!  Follow these simple instructions, and you’ll will be a feather combing machine too. 


Here is what you will need:

Prepared slip, or dry clay body (preferably the same clay body you will roll the slabs from) to make slip. 

Mason stain – at least one color of Mason stain

Slab shapes to decorate – the ornaments should be wet – soft leather hard at time of decoration.

A pin tool

Slip Trailing Bottles with a small tips for each color of slip.

Here is what we did…


First I colored the slip with the mason stain.  I used dry RO-42 Smooth White Clay (the same body that I used for the ornaments), and weighed out 15% by dry weight of the mason stain.  We suggest using 5-10% mason stain, by dry weight, depending on how intense you want the color. I then mixed the clay and stain with water to make the slip.  Let it sit overnight, and mix it thoroughly before you use it.  This amount of slip will last me for a long time, mix more or less depending on your needs!  Fill your slip trail bottles with the slip.


Next, apply the slip to the ornaments, varying color, and line thickness. Try to keep the slip on the top, you will have less of a mess to clean up later. 


Now that you have covered the ornament in multiple colors of slip, it is time to try feather combing it! Gently pull a needle tool or similar tool through the lines of slip.  Be careful not to dig too deep into the slab underneath the slip.  Try pulling the tool in different directions to vary the pattern made in the slip.



Ta – Da!  You’re done!  Now, it is important to allow your ornaments to dry slowly.  Cover them up and make sure nothing touches the wet slip.  Bisque fire as usual, then clear glaze to make the mason stained slip really pop! 

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