Ceramic Techniques: Paper Resist

I’ve used this surface design technique a few times on my ceramics. It can be a fiddly process but I find that there are lots of benefits to using this technique if you overcome them. 


Firstly, paper isn’t the only material that makes a good resist. Wax is another common resist used in ceramic decoration. The properties of the resist material need to be that it will shield your clay from absorbing the additional slip/ underglaze/ glaze that you wish to add to it, and that it can be removed afterwards. Removal can either be after your top layer has dried over your resist material or through picking something that will burn off in the kiln in a way that doesn’t have any negative effects. You will also want to pick a medium that can be applied to uneven surfaces, as ceramic surfaces are rarely flat.

You will first want to take your paper resist, which can be any shape that you desire cut out of paper. The benefit of this is that you can draw your design flat which is much easier than drawing directly onto a difficult form shape. This is additional beneficial to myself as I only have set occasions when I can access my ceramic studio and so it means I can do my resist preparations at home.

Resist Application

This is the fiddly part. You will want to take a small damp sponge and use it to press your paper resist onto your form. I had read that newsprint paper was the best paper to use, but I found it far too stiff. I use flip chart paper. This paper is absorbent enough and flexible enough to adhere to the form in a way that makes remedying inevitable creases possible. When you try to place a flat paper design on even a slightly inwards curve like a dish or bowl it will cause the design to change directions and crease. I recommend using flip chart paper, a bit of logic and a steady hand to encourage the areas where your design creases to overlap in a neat way that disguises this effect. Otherwise you end up with areas of your design that cross when you don’t want them too, or straight lines that suddenly jaunt off.

Ensure that the paper has adhered at every edge to prevent any unwanted colour seeping underneath but also think about how you might removes the paper afterwards. If your design is going to continue to the edge of your piece I recommend that you leave an additional length of paper at the end to use as a tab when it is time to remove the resist. When sponging the paper on I tend to sponge it in the direction that I know I want the creases to fold over to so that they remain within the design and won’t affect the outline of the piece once slip is added on top.

Colour Application

I tend to use this technique with coloured slip at the greenware stage but you could use it with underglaze and glaze too, just be aware that from bisque onwards the paper won’t adhere to the form with water. You would need to consider using a different kind of resist, such as wax, or being incredibly steady and dabbing on your colour ensuring no movement of the resists even slightly.

Colour slip usually takes a few layers to build up colour and so I recommend using a hair dryer between each one (from a distance, gentle heating) to dry between the layers. You don’t want the layers to be completely dry as the slip still needs to stick to the layer beneath, but if you add layers onto wet slip it will just move the clay about. Wait until the slip loses its sheen before adding another layer.

Once you have a sufficient amount of layers that you cannot see the clay through the slip you can peel off the resist. I will often dry this top layer a little so it doesn’t smudge but equally I don’t want the slip to be at risk as chipping off whilst I remove the paper. You can then instantaneously see how your design has come out.


If the colour does seep through, I find it easiest to wait until the slip dries and then scrape it off. If you start trying to wipe it you risk upsetting the beautiful crisp lines that this technique creates.

Flip chart paper, I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again. This technique takes practice and the more complicated the surface shape the more you’ll need control of your paper.

Once your resist is removed you can add detail with oxides and underglazes if you prefer your design not to be a flat, bold shape.

Don’t have elements that sprout from the body of your paper resist that are too close together, otherwise you risk them crossing and touching if you are placing them on a concave surface.

Practice using this technique on inward curving surfaces and outward curving surfaces so that you can learn how to compensate shaping your design depending on how it will be applied.  

Part time Hustlin’ as an Artist

First of all, lets start with the fact that there is no shame in having a part time job to support your art.

I think that it’s important to talk about our part time/full time/some of the time hustles as artists. I think that during all those years I thought I could never be an artist, one of the reasons was because I thought art was always a full time job. Seriously. With artists just talking about their art all day, why wouldn’t I have? The idea of me just quitting my job to try and sell my art for the first time? Not a chance! Turns out that no one does it like that. There are tonnes of artists moonlighting with their art or moonlighting their art with something else. I was ignoring this potential career because no one was admitting that they did it. The lack of discussion around this subject was a barrier to me that I didn’t even know about. So let’s talk about why it’s totally ok to have two jobs, and why we should talk about it more.


Well, why don’t we already talk about it more?


Is there a sense that customers are disinterested in our other jobs? I don’t think so. I think that it makes artists more human, more rounded, and people always seem to love to delve into other areas of artist’s lives. Just look at posts on instagram by artists that get high engagements, it’s often when they show a little bit more of their lives and their selves beyond just their art. People like a good story about people. Especially aspiring artists, they love to see your journey as it gives them the confidence to make their journey too. I personally don’t think that the decision comes from pressure from our fans. I think that artist’s deliberately choose not to talk about it. Sadly, I think that’s because there is some kind of shame in it.


But where does this shame come from?


Is it an old fashioned thing? Is it just all a little bit too obviously about the money? I’m sure there always used to be an addage somewhere that talking about money is low class. The insinuation that the discussion is tasteless is childish because the discussion is, in fact, important. Also, yes, it often is about money! So let’s talk more about how artists get paid and make a living, let’s talk about the fairness of commission prices charged and customer’s contemporary perceptions of what things should cost in a mass produced world where many residents of the third world are exploited for cheap labour. It’s not classless to talk about money, it is entirely necessary towards progress.


But can I be a successful artist if I have another job?


Honestly, I think that this is the crux of the matter with a lot of artists. The idea that if we aren’t self sustaining through our work then we aren’t a success. The conversation is stifled through fear of looking inferior. As far as I can see though, success is relative. I define my success when I achieve specific things, and none of them are self-sustaining through my art. Gaining big commissions, being stocked in stores that I love, being accepted to trade at admired and renowned events or featured in a cool exhibition. These are just some examples of what I deem to be successes in my work. Even if it’s not your idea of success, that’s fine! We are all allowed to be different. So I’ll go one further with my argument here and reveal a (not so) secret…


I love both my jobs!


Right now, I don’t want to do my art full time. I think it’s ridiculous that the art community so often synonymises passion with talent with career monogamy. I have 3 whole days a week where I can work as hard as I like on my illustration and ceramics. For the remaining 4 days a week I have a very rewarding, enjoyable and often intense job as a Fundraiser and Events Organiser. I have worked in fundraising for over a decade now.  Raising money for worthy organizations and designing incredible events that I can be proud of is very fulfilling for me. Thing is, my art is fulfilling too. Not only do I not have to choose, but I find it beneficial to have both of these areas in my life.


The ways in which working two jobs is a huge benefit


The stress of making your art work on a financial level is clearly huge. The nature of the work is that it is unsalaried, work is never guaranteed and there are a number of threats that make your income stream unreliable. Having another job, salaried and with regular hours, negates this. It means that my business stays FUNNER for LONGER. I only need to do what I enjoy and there is very little pressure on me.

It’s not all about the money either

Another benefit is that each job compliments one another whilst stimulating different parts of my brain. It might sound exhausting to have two jobs, and sometimes when they are both busy it is. However, they are different enough to one another that each is a break in itself. The skills I strengthen in each role also always become a help to the other job. I create illustrated posters for the events I design and the organization skills I developed in Events Organisation over the years are key to my illustration business. We all know that self employment can often be a very lonely and even sedentary lifestyle. Taking my pup over the the farm where I work with other colleagues four days a week  ensures that these aren’t issues for me either.


The starving artist who would die for their art is a tired cliche. I find having two jobs rewarding, good for me and financially beneficial. If we can reduce the stigma around this and take away any notion that it denotes a lack of success, I think we’d benefit from a great many more artists in this world.


Go Wild Gorillas 2019

I am massively excited to announce my participation as a selected artist for Go Wild Gorillas 2019. This high profile public art installation returns to Jersey for the second time this summer. The event is a fundraising collaboration between Durrell Zoo and Wild in Art. It consists of a series of large gorilla statues distributed across the picturesque island to form a sculpture trail.

Wild in Art have curated similar events internationally including Bee in the City Manchester and Herd of Sheffield. The event pairs artists with sponsors to produce each unique sculpture. The sculpture is then displayed at a point across the island for the duration of the summer. Afterwards each sculpture will be auctioned off to raise money for the zoo. Durrell are planning a huge revamp of their Gorilla enclosure which funds raised from the event will go towards.

The brief

Artists were encouraged to use the island as their inspiration for their design. Each will be provided the same fibreglass blank gorilla statue as the base for their work. Customising a giant blank sculpture must be every vinyl toy fan’s dream, and has certainly been mine! I can’t wait to put my stamp on it. It’ll also be interesting to see what other selected artists have envisioned for their sculptures too.

I will be producing two designs for the trail and will begin painting the sculptures in May. Designs are top secret until the trail is launched so I can’t say too much at present. What I can reveal though is that they will be multi media pieces and an ambitious challenge. Securing a commission of this kind was one of my goals for 2019 so I’m especially energised around participating.

And did I mention I’m really excited?

I’m keen to get cracking and preparations have already begun. As I have embraced the island’s history in both of my designs, I am really looking forward to visiting Jersey too. I am grateful to De Gruchy and Trust Ford for selecting and sponsoring my designs and giving me the opportunity to be part of such a brilliant project.

When my designs are unveiled I will share them on my blog with a more technical breakdown if their creation and materials used. If you get the chance to visit the trail, please share with me and tag me in your pictures.

Find out more about Go Wild Gorillas here.

Dealing with Rejection as an Artist

January is famous for being the longest month of them all. With what feels like 97 cold and dark days it is a nightmare for everyone. I can’t think of anyone who does well out of January, certainly not artists. Sales plummet as everyone feels the pinch after Christmas, and if you’re thinking of creating daylight hours are a rare luxury this time of year.

One thing that January is good for it admin and applications. It’s the perfect time to research new opportunities, new stockists and new markets. With the great stock clear out that is Christmas shopping, stockists will most likely have some spare shelf space going. Markets and Fairs are buzzing off their pre-Christmas rushes and getting their new year dates and applications in early. There seems to be a range of artist call out opening this year too. Whether it’s because everyone is taking the quiet time to get organised, budgets are renewed with the new year or perhaps this is the perfect time to prep busy artistic summer ventures.

The R Word

However, with more artist call outs comes more chances for dreaded rejection. I don’t believe that there are any artists out there who haven’t had to face it. None worth their salt anyway. If you aren’t willing to step outside your comfort zone then I can’t imagine you are even really trying. Pairing up those rejections with this dark, cold, fluey, broke time of year and you’ve got the real potential for some pretty down feeling artists.

I started to become one of those at the beginning of the year. Tired from all of those Christmas markets and missing daylight. I became a manic whirlwind of applications. Funny thing is that it wasn’t even receiving rejections that was making me anxious, but more like the waiting period where I was hopeful of success but mindful of receiving a slew of them in a short space of time. The absolute chasm between those two emotions was the stressful part. The idea that I could be taking part in some incredible opportunities, or that I could get shut down repeatedly in the space of just a few days was an absolute rollercoaster.

Art always feels so personal to us and we are so passionate about it that I know that there are lots of people in my shoes. However, it is precisely that thought that unlocks the route to handling rejections as they come in

The are a lot of people in my shoes

Arts opportunities are finite. There are tonnes of talented artists and there are only so many jobs going. Some might have a tonne more experience than you too. In my case, with only a year into my business, that’s most.

Whenever I am not successful it just means that someone out there, someone just like me, has been. It just means that it wasn’t my time that time. Perhaps it sounds like the cheesiest thing ever but when I started viewing unsuccessful opportunities as ‘try agains’ instead of ‘nos’ it made a huge difference to me. It helped me to keep a level of confidence, optimism and high self esteem that guided me through even more applications.  

Of all the applications that I made that had decision dates in January and early February I didn’t succeed in securing six of them. That’s six whole applications that I spent time, energy and hope on that didn’t come through. I filled out forms, created proposals, mocked up artworks and it didn’t pay off. Not even any feedback. The thing is though, seven applications were successful. Plus, I have seven more I am still waiting to hear back from. If I let the unsuccessful ones put me off then where would I be now?

One rejection doesn’t guarantee any more rejections

I hope that anyone facing rejection can find it comforting that everyone gets it. If you find yourself getting it almost exclusively then maybe take some time off from applications. Focus on your work, or ask someone to cast a critical eye over one of your applications. Are you following the brief? Are you applying to the right sort of things? Perhaps there are other opportunities out there that might suit you better? We all have our audiences and there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ artist.

I am really looking forward to sharing with you the new stockists, markets, exhibitions and commissions that I am going to be creating this year. Especially more so because I know what it’s like to not be able to take part. After all, the bitter always makes the sweet taste sweeter.


Exhibition: “One Hundred Views of the Arts Tower”

February 11th-March 31st, Western Bank Library Exhibition Gallery, Free Entry

I am taking part in the “One Hundred Views of the Arts Tower” exhibition this Spring. Our Favourite Places are running the exhibition by way of a very Yorkshire take on Hokusai’s wood print collection “One Hundred views of Mount Fuji”.  His collection explored the prominence of the Mountain on the skyline of Tokyo from a variety of perspectives. Similarly the Arts Tower holds a prominent visual spot above our city’s skyline.

The exhibition is part of the Sheffield Modern architecture festival. The gallery is displaying artists from across the city together in a range of mediums. From ceramic, to video, photography to drawings. Located in the Western Bank Library Exhibition Gallery, the Arts Tower itself a looming presence over the location.

My piece in the exhibition

I’ve contributed a digital illustration print to the exhibition. My print is a lighthearted tongue in cheek exploration of my own prominent feelings towards the Arts Tower.

I have been required to visit the building for meetings and talks on several occasions by my previous employers in the University’s Students Union across the road and so I established familiarity with the inside of the building. The Paternoster lifts are the part of the building that draw the most feeling out of me. One of only 2 remaining paternosters in the country you could say we are very lucky to have it in our city. However, I have never gotten inside it because, frankly, it looks like it wants to eat me.

My contribution to the exhibition explores this childish fear in a bright and silly way. All I hope for it is that just one person sees it and thinks ‘at least it’s not just me!’. After all, I am pretty sure I can’t be the only person who feels this way, right?

Share your visit with me

If you visit the exhibition, please don’t forget to tag me in your pictures on Instagram and Facebook @Thisissianellis