Published on February 6, 2020

There are few things more satisfying to watch than a ceramist throwing pottery—other than bubble painting (also called bubble glazing), a technique that results in cascading, cloudlike mountains of foam. 

 Léan Van der Merwe, a ceramist based in Cape Town, South Africa, who uses the marbelizing technique a lot in his work, says anyone can do it. All you require is underglaze (or paint if you’re decorating something that doesn’t require a kiln), and all you need to remember, technique-wise, is to blow bubbles. You’ll feel like a kid again and you’ll get some pretty cool dinner plates out of it. Van der Merwe walks us through the steps: 

The Supplies 

  • Colored underglaze or acrylic paint
  • Clear glaze 
  • Regular dish soap 
  • A straw 
  • A cup for mixing
  • A paintbrush 
  • An object to cover (Van der Merwe uses bisqueware, or hardened, unfinished ceramic, but any tableware will do)

Step 1: Make the Mixture 

Whip up two parts underglaze and one part water in a clear glass container or mug. Next, squirt in a tablespoon’s worth of dish soap. Mix the liquid thoroughly with the straw. “The consistency should be that of fresh cream,” says Van Der Merwe.  (Follow the same proportions and technique if you’re using paint.) 

Step 2: Blow Bubbles!

Standing over the piece you want to glaze, blow into the mixture with the straw and let the bubbles that emerge overflow and drop onto the surface. The secret to creating different-size bubbles is maintaining a slow, even breath. (If you blow too hard, all of them will be small.) If you’re decorating something like a large serving bowl, start with the center and the sides before turning it over. No need to wait until the piece is completely dry before you flip it—just ensure all the bubbles have popped first. Also, contrast is a good thing. As Van der Merwe coats a piece in the mixture, he leaves parts blank to create a more dynamic design. 

Step 3: Fire It Up 

If you’re using multiple colors, wait for the first one to dry before repeating steps one and two. After all the bubbles have dried, cover the entire item in a clear glaze sealer. (Van der Merwe applies two coats using a paintbrush, diluting the first one with water so it doesn’t remove the color.) 

Finally, if needed, put your ceramics in the kiln to fire—most studios will let artists fire their works for a small fee. Of course, the brilliance of this DIY is that you can do it on just about anything (paper, wood, plastic), so don’t let that part stop you. Time to pick your blank canvas:

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