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Pottery/Sealing Vinyl Sticker on Ceramic Mug



I'm a big fan of your work. I am working on a project right now and am stumped with my most recent challenge.

I'm trying to make a few fun mugs for friends. I purchased a set of black mugs and worked with a design shop to create white vinyl stickers to put on the mug as decoration. The stickers are silhouettes of people's faces. And cover the height of the mug from top to bottom

The problem is that I'm pretty sure the vinyl stickers will come off in the dishwasher and I'm not sure how well they will do in the microwave. Someone recommended that I coat the mugs with a glaze but I then discovered that the glaze I was using (Triple Thick by DecoArt) would not withstand the dishwasher or microwave nor is it safe to put near the lip of the mug due to toxicity.

I'm wondering if there is a way to seal the sticker onto the mug in a safe way so it's dishwasher/microwaveable safe and non-toxic? I'm open to other ideas - like not using stickers and getting the silhouettes on the mugs a different way. Any ideas?

Sorry for the long message. I REALLY appreciate any help you can provide.

-Brian Murray

ANSWER: Dear Brian,

    Thank you for your recent question and the kind comment. I looked at your photo and I think I understand what you are trying to do. First I need to ask you some questions so that I can give you a solution that will give you the results you need.

    1. Do you have access to a pottery kiln. Either one you own or a place that will fire pottery?
    2. Can you purchase white mugs?
    3. Are you willing to purchase a couple of glazes to complete your project?
    4. Where are you purchasing your mugs from? This is important to know what type of mug you are using for your project. If there is a label on the bottom, please list it.

    As for your current step, there is really no way to make the vinyl stickers safe to use on the mugs as they are, however, there is a way to create the same look, using the stickers, so keep them and upon answering the questions above, I will help you create the look you are after.

    I await your reply.

Ms. Ti Phillips
Earth Stoke 'N Fire Pottery Studio and Artist Retreat

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your quick response, Ti!

My responses to your questions:
1. Yes, I have access to a kiln.
2. I can purchase white mugs but I've already purchased a number of black mugs that I wouldn't want to go to waste. Ultimately, if I need to get white mugs to achieve the desired look, I'm willing to do so.
3. I would be willing to purchase more glazes but I'd prefer to keep this process as simple as possible. Eventually I might want to make more of these types of mugs in various designs so the fewer the steps in the process, the better as long as the result looks good.
4. I bought my mugs in bulk from a wholesaler in LOs Angeles. In fact, the mug in the image is not the mug I intend to use. The mugs I bought in bulk are 11 oz black cylindrical mugs - VERY basic looking.

As an additional update. I spoke to the folks who run the kiln and they suggested another option of getting a stencil of the image and then use a "double stroke" white paint (I think that's what it was called) and fire the mug after putting a few coats of white paint on. I'm worried about the quality of the image if the paint bleeds past the outlines of the stencil. But I wanted to share that new info with you in case it sparks any additional thoughts.

Thanks again so much for your help!

Dear Brian,

    Thank you for your reply. This information helps so much. First, let me tell you that your idea is a beautiful one, and I know we will come up with a solution for getting the look you want.

    The use of the vinyl stickers unfortunately can not be used as a permanent sticker because it will not withstand the firing process. However, they can be used in the process of creating the look so bare with me as I explain the process you should take to get the exact look.

    If you are adamant about using the black mugs, then you have a couple of options.

    1. The first is to place the vinyl sticker on the mug and brush the mug with white glaze, creating a black silhouette. However, I believe you want a black mug with a white silhouette so this option is probably out.

    2. The next option is similar to those you have talked to, however, you are correct about bleeding, so the solution, if you are into brush painting is to place the vinyl sticker on the mug, then use a fine tip permanent marker and outline the silhouette and all of its parts. Any marks from the marker will burn off. Then apply the white glaze, carefully applying three coats to the image. I believe the glaze they are speaking of is called E-Z Stroke as I don't know of any glaze called double stroke, but I could be wrong.

       The problem with this is because there is a black glaze under the white, firing will cause a fusion between the black and white and may cause some very undesired effects. Glazes do not work like watercolors in a kiln. The raw glaze materials fuse during high heat, causing interaction between the various raw materials and some will vaporize, while others will meld together creating a very different color, texture, etc. Unless you can test this prior to committing all of the mugs to the process, with hundreds of hours in glaze formulation, I do not suggest this type of procedure.

   If you can consider selling your black mugs and going with an unglazed mug of the same shape, you will have complete success with this project.

    1. Purchase two glossy glaze colors, one white and one black. I suggest using Duncan Envision Glaze Black #1026 and Duncan Envision Glaze Downright White #1653.

    2. The first step is to locate where you want to place the silhouette. Once located, use the white glaze and place three solid coats over the complete area where the vinyl sticker will be placed. Be sure and extend the white glaze at least 1/4" past the outside edges where the sticker will end. Let dry between each coat and then let dry completely before placing the vinyl sticker in place.

    3. When placing the sticker, you have one chance to get it in position or you risk disrupting the glaze you have applied. If you place the sticker and it is not where you want it, careful peal it back and check the sticker for glaze and the mug for no glaze. Touch up the areas on the mug before proceeding.

    4. Once the sticker is in place, use a Q-Tip to dip into water and brush along the edges of the sticker to remove the glaze. Just make sure you don't get water under the sticker so squeeze out the water on the Q-Tip. Do the same removal process for any detail work on the sticker.

    5. Let the mug dry before applying the black glaze. Although the ideal way to apply the glaze would be to spray it on, since you probably don't have a glaze sprayer, we will use another method. Check the sticker to make sure it is sticking to the glaze. Get a bowl larger than the mug. Shake the glaze to mix and hold the mug over the bowl with the sticker side up. Begin slowly pouring the glaze over the mug, covering the sticker and the complete mug. Apply the glaze over the whole mug. Don't worry about the finger areas at this time. Once you have covered the entire mug, hold it until the glaze stops dripping. Place the mug on a table with a piece of cloth to absorb the glaze on the bottom of the mug. This will let you know where you need to remove glaze from the mug foot. Using a brush, touch up the fingerprint areas. Allow to completely dry.

    6. Once the mug is completely dry, invert it and using a damp sponge, carefully remove all glaze from the bottom of the mug foot. The foot is the outer ring that touches the table when the mug is set down. There may be an indention in the bottom center of the mug that doesn't touch the table. It is all right to leave the glaze there.

    7. Leave the mug as it is with the vinyl sticker in place and place the mug in a box with a lot of shredded paper. Handle the mug as little as possible and make sure the mug is protected from bumping other objects. Take the mug to the kiln shop and have fired to the maturing temperature of the glaze, which is Cone 06....not Cone 6....there is a very big difference.

    I know that this means replacing the current mugs with bisque mugs, but it is the only way to get the effect you are wanting without getting ceramic appliques especially designed for this purpose. I have listed a few clay shops that carry various type of bisque mugs. However, if you choose to go with this solution and do not find the mug shape you are looking for, contact me again and send a photo of the mug shape you want and I will locate them for you.

    As for your current mugs, there are several options. First, list them on EBay or another site to sell, sell them to friends. Keep them and purchase some cool appliques to apply to them and fire for yourself, or decorate them with appliques and give them as Christmas gifts.  

    The shops are listed below.

   Furthermore, I just want to let you know that these are suggestions. If you want me to come up with further ideas, I will be happy to. Also if you need further assistance or have any additional questions, you can contact me at any time now or in the future. I am always at your service.

Ms. Ti Phillips
Earth Stoke 'N Fire Pottery Studio and Artist Retreat


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Ti Phillips


Will answer any questions on hand building, wheel, glaze, firing. Speciality questions to include those in glaze calculation and development, firing techniques. Please do not send questions on identifying pottery. Although I would love to add this to my question topics, I have a retreat to run as well as the studio and volunteering on AllExperts, and therefore do not have the available time to research indentification and marks. Thank you for understanding.


Experience includes 30 years in pottery design and education. Have taught online and studio classes worldwide for the last 20 years. Own a pottery retreat specializing in firing techniques. Have 12 years solid experience in glaze calculation and formulation as well as problem solving in glaze chemistry. I am the first potter in the United States to have developed a complete package of pottery equipment blueprints for a studio. The blueprints include wheels, kilns, studio furniture, wedgeboards, raku kilns, slab rollers, ball mills and studio tools.

Alliance of Pottery Artists Worldwide Association

Ceramic Industry - PPP Wyndstryder Press - Pottery Journal

University of Sciences and Art's of Oklahoma, studied under Professor Jaymes Dudding.

Awards and Honors
Potter of the year with APAWA, various awards for showmanship and design.

Past/Present Clients
Available upon request.

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