Majolica with Mayco Stroke & Coat Colors; Mixing Your Own Colors

Someone asked recently about what I’m using for majolica decorating, now that the AMACO GDC colors are discontinued.

Thanks to Susan Hunter at C & R Ceramics in Ocala, FL, I was able to test Mayco Stroke & Coat colors on top of my majolica base, fired to cone 03 sitter cone/ small 04 cone visual at about 200 degrees/hour. See the Mayco link for their product information. The colors were originally intended as cone 06 glazes, and can be used to decorate on top of a viscous white glaze for majolica inglaze decoration. The series offers a huge number of color shades, and whoever named them had a good time making up fun color names. The work well, and have been successful for making smooth ground color – they brush smoothly, and don’t move when fired. They are, however, like putting a glaze on top of the majolica glaze, and any texture in the base glaze tends to pick up. There are some light distortions at the top of the images below as I just popped the tiles down on my scanner to try getting an image. Setting up my photo lights and screens would have made better images, but would not have happened as soon.

Mayco Stroke and Coat tile 1 PP

Mayco Stroke and Coat tile 2 PP Mayco Stroke and Coat tile 3 PP The commercial colors are uniform, brush easily, and are repeatable. In spite of that, I am liking my return to mixing my own colors. The gum component in commercial colors, if over-done, can make the colors gloppy for brushing fine lines. Manufacturers may change colors or formulas without notice. The use of a color that is glaze-like over the majolica makes a more translucent color for some colors. Whether this is an asset or a liability is a matter of personal aesthetic.

I have previously posted information about Spectrum’s product, which seemed better suited to 06 firing than my 03 sitter cone firing, and A.R.T.’s Glazewerks Maiolica colors, which worked well at my temperature and with my glaze. If you’re looking for my glaze recipe, see the Majolica and Lowfire handout on my website handouts page.

I’m preferring the control, flow, and look of mixing my own colors, and have bought some low, wide-mouthed jars for my colors (so I don’t knock them over on my table). Details on what to mix below. Bentonite bloats in water (like adding cocoa or cinnamon to liquids) and will lump up unless mixed with the dry ingredients first (like mixing your cocoa with sugar first). I stir dry (don’t breathe the dust!), add water, and mix with a small wisk. I generally then screen in a small test sieve. Talisman and Euclid’s offer such screens. I’m using an 80 mesh, and push the mix through with a mini silicone spatula.

Most of what I’m using are stains, mixed with frit 3124 and bentonite by volume (e.g. by teaspoon) at a proportion of 1 color + 1 bentonite + 3-4 frit. I tried using less bentonite – 1/2 – , thinking less clay would give me a cleaner fine line with black, but it tended to smear when waxed over. I’ve gone back to using equal amounts stain and bentonite. Most stains are good with 3 parts frit to help melt them into the glaze surface. There are exceptions, though. Many of the blue stains are refractory (resistant to melting) and need 4 parts frit to help them melt in. the mineral rutile (orange-brown fired color) and chrome oxide (opaque grass green color) work well as colorants, but are also refractory and need 4 parts frit. Copper carbonate, cobalt carbonate, manganese dioxide, and iron melt at lowfire temperatures, and would be mixed at 1:1:1 proportions. I do use copper to modify some green and blue colors. Putting it on very heavily will cause a silvery surface that will probably leach with acid foods. If you get that result, you’re using it too heavily for food use. Cobalt carbonate works well, but is pale lavender-grey raw. This makes if hard to remember what is where while working, and hard to visualize what may be a navy blue result. This could be avoided by putting blue food color in your cobalt-frit-bentonite mix. Since iron is just brown and manganese is brownish, I rarely use them for majolica, although they can work. Manganese gives off toxic fumes in firing. As a decorating color for majolica, this would be a small amount, but still toxic.

Stains designated as body stains (for coloring clay bodies at all temperatures) are too refractory for majolica use, and even when mixed with flux give a matte pig-skinned (wrinkled) surface on top of most majolica glazes. Some of those stains: Mason 6020 Manganese-alumina pink, 6485 Titanium yellow, 6319 Lavender.

For those who remember the original AMACO GDC Light Red color, which was a lovely red-orange toward persimmon, Mason Lobster stain is that color and can be mixed as above.

Happy decorating.