Making Glazing Work for A Large Group

I’m just going to say it… glazing can be a pain in the butt. I can’t believe I’m putting the word “butt” in an article, but that’s truly how I feel, or should I say that’s how I felt. Before I met Sue, glazing was one big hassle. You know the drill: set out the glazes, answer 500 questions about how the glazes will look when they’re fired, pour the glazes from the jars into small cups, then pour the leftovers from the small cups into the jars. Keep your hawk eyes on students that could contaminate your glaze and leave you $20 in the hole. What sounds fun about that? Why do we even bother? Well, for me, it’s the fact that at the end of the mess and the headache students get to take home a beautiful object that will last forever.

During my student teaching, my cooperating teacher Sue introduced me to a glazing set-up that made so.much.sense. I’ve never looked back and I’d love to share it with you today.

How do you set up glazing for a classroom of students?

How does it look different at the middle school and high school levels?

We’d love to hear in the comments section!


5 years ago

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


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  • Art on my hands

    Love the idea of gluing the test tiles right to the lids of the glazes!

  • HipWaldorf

    Okay, you have convinced me. I am never pouring glaze into tiny little cups again. I let them walk around to the color they wanted when I first started teaching, but now I think one day of glaze classroom chaos is better time spent than me wasting my time pouring it into little cups.

    • @HipWaldorf, yes kids do carry around their clay piece, but it’s a great lesson in being careful and everyone isn’t moving at the same time, which helps. I used this same method in my teaching.

      • I totally agree. I’ve only had someone drop a clay piece once, and it was an easy fix with hot glue.

    • Yes! No one likes to waste time. Hope it goes well for you.

  • Rina_k6art

    I’ve been doing the walk-around method for several years and love it! I would like to add I have all my tables labeled by color year round…..I put the yellow glaze on the yellow table, the red glaze on the red table, etc. This makes it really easy to find all the glaze colors. Each kid also puts a piece of copy paper under the clay piece as they walk around….it keeps them from getting their fingers in the just painted glaze.

    I LOVE your idea about having the kids dip the brush right into the bottle!!!

    • Staci

      I do the same – colors on the matching colored table. So easy! :)

  • Rhonda

    Another teacher I work with buys the textured glazes and always calls them “mystery glazes.” The kids have no idea what color they’re using and therefore they just pick one and coat their whole project with it (works well on general stuff that can be one color). All they know is that when it is fired, it will “turn into” something cool so they are never disappointed with how it comes out!

    • I really like this idea. I once had an entire color of glaze go bad and turn black in the kiln. It was a lesson for the kids in “accidents happen” and also a science lesson about how chemical reactions can be unpredictable.

    • What a fun idea. I love it!

  • Wendi

    OMG! this genius! no more washing bowls and wasting glaze… I’m doing it!

  • Rina

    OK – I followed your advice today and set out the glaze colors, one color per table, matching glaze color with table color. I put a couple of brushes directly into the glaze bottles. IT WORKED SO WELL. I am never going back to little glaze cups! I am going to update one of my blog posts with this advice.

    • Rina, I was so happy to read your comment. You never know, sometimes things that work well for one teacher don’t work well for another. Glad it worked for you!

  • Marsha

    I have been doing the glaze stations for years. I also use my ‘table colors’ to determine which tables get which glazes- blue to the blue table, etc. I put a water cup out at each table as well. Otherwise I find that students want to keep the brushes in the glaze jar. Unless the glaze is down to the last inch, keeping the brush in the glaze jar just gets it all over the handle and then the next student to come along doesn’t want to use that brush. I encourage them to dip only as far as the bristles, wipe extra off, then put the brush in the water when finished before they move on.
    I teach 5th and 6th, not sure if the table color thing translates as well with 7th, 8th, or high school.

    • Marsha

      As a side note, I also use the table color method when doing printmaking if we are using multiple colors.

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  • Vonnie

    I go a a bit more glaze crazy. I like to use different kinds of glaze for different projects (like ‘Green Stone’ or ‘Moss’ for lighthouse projects, etc.)
    So I came up with just a bit of a twist. I use the large Styrofoam meat trays and put the brushes, toothpicks and a glaze in each one – I also write the name of the glaze on the inside of the tray. When we’re done, kids stack the trays, leaving the brushes right in them and these go in one spot on the shelf. The glazes are sealed and placed in a tray. When we do another project, all we do is pull out the tray and place the correct glaze in it. It does take a lot of brushes to do this but that’s something I just order extra of. I also place a bucket of water somewhere safe so they can dip the glaze-hardened brushes – it doesn’t take much to rejuvenate them and most just stick the brushes right into the glaze to soften them.
    Now, carrying clay. Little ones sometimes have issues. We always use a folded newspaper as a cushion but I say over and over again (like that IKEA commercial) – ‘BIRDCAGE’ when you carry your piece from table to table!! Birdcage means to carry the piece on the newspaper with one hand and spread your fingers over the top of your piece as you walk around.
    One of my second graders dropped her clay fish as she was walking around and another child rushed to help her saying ‘I’m so sorry your fish got out of its cage’!! Amidst her tears, I had to hide a smile, but after a little triage, the fish was fine. It wouldn’t have worked, however, if she had been glazing – and I know she’ll remember to ‘birdcage’ it next time – so will everyone else! Have fun :)

    • Alecia Eggers

      Wow Vonnie! Thank you for all the wonderful tips!! Love the “birdcage” idea!