Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How To Etch Ceramic Pendants and Beads...

I've been trying to figure out how to make the most out of what I've got.
How do you make something new out of what is already in existence?
What I've got is a lot of porcelain pendants.
And these pieces above have all now been etched.

What is etching? I wondered the same thing...
Years ago I was talking to my friend Nikki (Thornburg Bead Studio) about how she got that awesome satin matte finish on some of her glass beads - the ones that I was completely drawn to more than any other bead.
We were both selling our work at a bead show, and I think the conversation was something along the lines of me asking novice questions like:
"What kind of glass is that? The one that has a satin matte etched finish?" 
Then she politely giggled as always and explained that it was an extra step she took after creating the beads to remove the glossy glass finish. 
She used a liquid glass etch (Etch All) to get that finish on some of her beads.
Update: Check out the bottle on this post.

I thought that since my pieces were glazed - and glaze contains silica (glass) - I should be able to etch my glazed pieces...
So I ordered the Dip 'n etch etching solution, etched pieces, but was a bit occupied traveling selling my work at bead shows at the time to really spend a lot of time in the studio experimenting, so I put it up on the shelf.
(still can't find that original bottle - it's in a box in the studio somewhere!)
Marsha Neal Studio Newly Etched Butterfly and Bat Pendants.
This time I was really ready to experiment and play with it (no show pressure this time).
I followed the directions on the bottle and soon figured out that my glazes would take a lot longer than a few minutes to get the look I wanted (this took lots of testing and keeping track of time - 15 minutes give or take depending on the actual glaze).
Marsha Neal Studio reenactment of rinsing etched pendants.
After the 15 minutes was up, I carefully emptied the etching solution back into the original bottle, then rinsed each piece at the sink. My pieces have a lot of texture so I used a green scrubby, the industrial kind, to clean each piece individually. 
Also, please note that I was wearing gloves during the entire process around the etching solution.
Always follow safety guidelines on bottle!
I remembered that I should be taking a photo after these were rinsed, and ran the water just to show the step...
Marsha Neal Studio Etched Pendants Tray 1
 After they were dried and inspected they were placed into trays so I could easily photograph them and get them ready for listing up in my Etsy shop (hoping to photograph them Tuesday & Wednesday) and do a shop update on Thursday.
Marsha Neal Studio Etched Pendants Tray 2
MNS Detail of cutout flowers & medium etched pendants.
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They all have this buttery rich satin matte finish to them.
The colors are so muted yet intense...
MNS detail of etched bats and butterfly pendants.
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Every time I hold one in my hand I can't help but want to squeal and covet it a bit more...
Marsha Neal Studio double sided Etched Nest Beads.
Marsha Neal Studio side view of etched nest bead.
Just wait...
You've got to get some of these to see how beautiful they are!
Marsha Neal Studio detail of etched shards and earring pairs.
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And of course - I had to etch some of these Halloween pieces.
It is like the missing link to what the finish needed on these not so scary spooky pendants.
Marsha Neal Studio Etched Halloween Pendants.
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So what do you think?
Do you like them?
Do you want to use them or just hold onto them?

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Wish me luck with getting things pulled together after over a week off
(we needed some extra family fun time together - too much crazy going on in the last year).

There is so much to catch up with - I'm going in every direction.
To Do lists that last for days - but soon it will all get done...


  1. I'm a sucker for etched glass beads...these are awesome!

  2. They look great! Thanks for showing your process too.

  3. I really like them. I am sure it is a ton of work but the results are wonderful. Isn't Nikki the nicest? She is so sharing and giving. I love talking to her when she comes with the bead show to Richmond, VA.

  4. Another great and interesting post! So many fun things to learn and hopefully get to try!

  5. What does the glass etch say it contains? You could probably use whink to do the same thing. I know it will remove china paint and if you leave it on a bit long it will etch the surface of the china. I'm thinking it might work faster. It contains hydroflouric acid with is very dangerous though so you have to be really really careful with it. It is also a good idea to stop the process on it by putting some baking soda on the pieces. You can also use a masking solution to etch only parts of a design which gives you are really cool result. More so on a non textured piece though.

  6. Thank you for sharing this Marsha! As a chemist, I'm interested to know what is in the etching solution too - I know of one glass etchant that I would never want to use, the hydrofluoric acid mentioned above by Marsha. Even though I know how to properly use it, I'm a bit chicken and paranoid about it, since it eats bone! So I'd love to know what is in your etching solutions...
    I would also LOVE to touch every single one of those lovely pendants you've made! Can't wait to see them in your shop! I love all the swirls I see and the bats are adorable! Beautiful beautiful pieces, as always!

  7. The Etch All, Dip n Etch contains 20% Ammonium Bifluoride (the active ingredient) and 80% Inert Inactive ingredients. I took some photos with my iPhone and posted them here: http://www.marshanealstudio.blogspot.com/2012/01/etch-all-dip-etch-info.html

    I think I've spoken to a few glass artists that do acid etch (with Hydroflouric acid?) and they use the baking soda to to neutralize the process.

    The label on the Etch All does not say to use baking soda, but I did use the running water, and went the extra step with the green scrubby to get into the textures. I have an old toothbrush by the studio sink too to get into hard to reach spots. I was wondering if I did need to go that extra step with the baking soda though. Will have to research it out a bit before I do my shop update...

    Thanks for the feedback!

  8. Looking forward to seeing these in your shop. Very cool!

  9. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for the product should list the active ingredient. The company product page, online, should have one. If not, one of their dealers should have it.

    I've done some etching on my work, but with a Dremel!


I would love to hear what you think…