The Limitless Possibilities of Mason Stains
At the back of the showroom at Armadillo Clay, there lives a rack of small packages of Mason Stains. The rainbow of powders is eye-catching, but what are they even for? Though they draw many a shopper's eye, their uses can be somewhat of a mystery.
So what are they? Mason Stains are specially formulated combinations of colorants that create specific hues. For example, #6371 Dark Teal is made up of aluminum, cobalt, and chromium. The resulting combo-colorant is a deep, rich, ocean teal that is powerful in small amounts.
But how do you use them? Mason Stains can be used in a variety of ways! Because they are colorants, they are very flexible in their applications. Here are the four most common uses:
Wedge stain into your clay to make it whatever color you want! White clay works better as a base, and will help keep your stain color brighter. Wear gloves to avoid staining your hands! Pro Tip: Mix your stain with a little water, and then add it to your clay to make the color distribute faster and more evenly when wedging.
Photo from Ceramic Arts Daily and Naomi Lindenfeld
Add your stain of choice to some water, and a bit of Frit or Gerstley Borate as a binder, and you've got a brightly colored ceramic wash you can use in the same way you would use an iron oxide wash! These can also be used to do photocopy transfers.
If you have dabbled in glaze mixing, this one will come as no surprise to you. If not, don't worry. You can add mason stains to almost any clear or white base glaze to make it your own custom color! As with any glaze formulation, this process requires some testing to ensure a good glaze fit, and avoid undesirable surface defects. Further reading is encouraged when pursuing this application:
John Britt article in Ceramic Arts Daily
DigitalFire article on formulating and trouble-shooting