Materials Monday: Marvelous Mason Stains®

Have you heard? As a long time distributor of Mason Stains®, Brackers is proud to share the news that Mason Color Works Inc. was recently awarded trademark status for their Mason Stains®. This status helps to ensure that retailers and artists alike are receiving genuine, quality products when purchasing Mason Stains® and protects against the distribution of knock-off stains, which are often of lower quality. 

The Promotion:

To celebrate this accomplishment, and to highlight the talented artists who utilize Mason Stains® in their work, Brackers is running a promotion! To enter, all you need to do is make a post on Instagram or Facebook featuring a photo/s of your work using Mason Stains® and include the hashtag #MarvelousMasonStains and we will send you a code to receive 20% OFF of your next Mason Stains® order.

Why Use Mason Stains®?

Mason Color Works Inc. is a quality brand that has been around since 1842 and a global supplier of ceramic pigments for over 40 years and offers over 90 colors of pre-mixed ceramic stains. These stains can be fired at Low, Mid, and High Fire temperatures and applied to ceramics in almost every way imaginable. 

What are Mason Stains®

Mason Stains® are oxides or combinations of oxides and opacifiers that have been blended and fritted* to ensure color consistency and stability for uniform firing results. They can be used to add color to clay bodies, slips, engobes, and glazes. Luckily for us all, the fired color of most stains is very similar to the raw color. If you can’t find the exact color you were hoping for, they can be blended to achieve other colors; however, not all Mason Stains® colors are compatible with each other. This variation is due to the different chemicals required to formulate each color. Specific advice can be found for each color on the Mason Color Works website here. Custom colors can also be requested from them if larger, productions-sized quantities are needed. As always, the best way to achieve your desired results is just to test, test, test until you find what works for you, your clay, and your kiln.

*Frit: A frit is a ceramic composition that has been fused, quenched, and granulated/powdered to render the component materials insoluble.

To tint the body itself, they can be wedged into clay or stirred into a casting slip or engobe. In general, using a white clay body will provide the most vibrant color results. While many of these stains can be fired to anywhere from cone 05 to cone 10 temperatures**, they are formulated specifically for use in oxidizing atmospheres. Results in a reduction atmosphere can differ. The percentage of stain needed will vary depending on your desired color intensity, so tests should be done to discover which percentages provide the desired results. That said, a good starting range is 10% to 20% stain to clay. This means that to add a 10% stain, one would use 10 grams of stain for every 100 grams of clay. For darker colors like blacks, blues, and greens, a smaller percentage of stain will be needed than for lighter colors like pinks and yellows.  Likewise, when mixing your own colors, stronger colors may overpower the weaker ones if mixed in equal ratios. **Each Mason Stain® has its own set of firing instructions, not all colors will survive high fire conditions. Likewise, some colors will not mature fully at low fire temperatures. Always check the specs on the specific stain you are using, and when in doubt test, test, test!

Mason Stains® can be mixed into a white glaze for opaque color or into a clear glaze for translucent “celadon-esque” appearances.  Intensity of the color is determined by the percentage of stain added to the glaze.  Generally, we recommend a starting point of 20-25%.  We even weigh the bags out in 1/4# amounts, so you can start off by mixing one bag into one pint of glaze and then “season to taste”

Similarly, Mason stains can be mixed into underglazes or engobes for decoration purposes too! 

Tracy Townsley – Mason Stains® mixed with water, applied over a white glaze and fired to cone 5

You can even mix the stains with water and decorate on top of a glaze for beautiful brushed-on decoration and majolica techniques. (Please note that at low temperatures, the stain needs to be mixed with a flux.  We suggest equal parts stain, Frit 3124 and Gerstley Borate) 

You can also use stains mixed with water directly on bisqueware and then cover with a clear glaze.

With all these beautiful surface decorating abilities, it’s no wonder that Mason Stains® have been featured in not one but three of Bracker’s Glaze of the Month promotions. Two of which were inspired by the work of Kristen Kieffer. The third was in tribute to the talented artist Glenda Taylor whose work is recognizable by the signature palette of Mason Stains® with which she liked to create. To peruse more of these examples, click here!

Extra Tips and Tricks
  • When adding stains to a moist or liquid base such as moist clay, glaze, or slip, try mixing the stain first with a little bit of water (to a consistency of latex paint or slightly thicker) to make it easier to blend with the base. 
  • Heavy-duty (or freezer style) zip-close plastic baggies are particularly useful when adding stain to a clay body in small amounts to reduce mess and wasted stain. Just close the bag securely and knead the stain into the clay until well mixed. You can also make thin slabs of clay and apply a layer of the stain-and-water mixture between each slab, then knead/wedge together.