How to Melt Copper on Ceramics

By Erin Watson-Price

Melting copper onto a ceramic piece as it is fired leaves behind a patina. By using copper wire, you can create a variety of shapes. Wrap the wire around the ceramic piece to create random lines. Twist the wire into spirals or shapes and lightly press them into the pottery before it dries. Embed the wire into wet clay to leave deep impressions in the clay after it melts. As the copper melts, it will run down vertical surfaces creating a drip of color. To melt copper without burning it away, you can use a method of firing known as saggar or container firing.

List of Items Needed

  • 28- or 32-gauge copper wire
  • Thermal foil
  • Dish-washing sponge
  • Rotary tool
  • Polishing pad
  • Oil painter’s wax
  • Matte acrylic medium
  1. Place 28- or 32-gauge copper wire on the ceramic piece before or after it dries.

  2. Cut one or more pieces of thermal foil large enough to cover the entire piece.

  3. Crumble the foil and then smooth it back out.

  4. Wrap the piece in the thermal foil. Do not leave any gaps in the foil. Gaps will transfer smoke and fumes from the kiln causing unwanted discolorations.

  5. Place the piece in your kiln.

  6. Warm the kiln to 1,600 to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit.

  7. Hold the kiln at the above temperature range for 20 minutes.

  8. Allow the kiln to cool with the door closed for one hour.

  9. Allow the kiln to cool with the door open for another hour before removing the piece.

  10. Wash the piece with clean water and a dish-washing sponge to remove any carbon and loose pieces of melted copper. Brighten the copper using a polishing pad on a rotary tool to lift off residual traces of carbon that the water did not remove.

  11. Seal the piece with oil painter’s wax or matte acrylic medium to protect the piece and bring out the colors of the copper.

Tips and Warnings

  • Experiment with copper wire and glazing. Apply your favorite glaze to the piece and then wrap in copper wire. Fire the piece according to your regular glazing technique and see how the melting copper affects the glazes color and texture. Alternatively, glaze the piece after melting the copper.
  • Saggar firing results in a more delicate ceramic piece and does not produce containers suitable for food or water.

© Demand Media 2011