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Natalie's Notes

Iron Oxide Decals ... You may have run across this phrase the last couple of years and wondered what all the fuss was about. 

Many bead artists also love to draw.  The iron oxide decals give us that creative opportunity.

For example, this pendant set was created by Marsha Neal Studio.    The drawing designs on these pendants are her own drawings and are copyrighted by Marsha Neal Studio, LLC.

The original drawings on all our pieces are our unique fingerprint of creativity.  In painting, as in writing, as soon as something is created there is the automatic assumption by the court system that it is also copyrighted. You can't copyright an idea but as soon as that idea is in a solid form of any kind, it is copyrighted.  This is true whether it is done by an individual or whether one works for a design company.  You can read more about that process here

The reason I bring that up is to emphasize that these jewelry components are small miniature works of art!  It's exciting!

For example, this hand drawn one-of-a-kind dragonfly was drawn by Joan Miller of Joan Miller Porcelain.  It has a wonderful playful quality.  It is her unique rendering of a dragonfly.

It needs to be emphasized. Joan is not a machine. She doesn't have a staff of people making these one after another. She can only make so many of these in her lifetime.  None of us do.  That is one huge reason that these iron oxide designs are being so sought after.

Another thing I love about these iron oxide decals is that they can fire anywhere from a blackish brown to a rich dusky brown that almost mimics purple.  However, a lovely sepia is the norm.  The variations between firings are greatly enjoyed.

In order to produce these decals, equipment must be purchased: a laser printer which must utilize a certain amount of iron oxide.  HP printers are recommended because of their large percentage of iron oxide in the ink.  The other thing that must be used is a certain kind of decal paper.  The decal paper comes in two types: ink jet and laser.  The kind of paper that must be used for these iron oxide decals is laser paper because it must be put through a laser printer.   If one was to print their design on ink jet paper, as soon as the design was fired in a kiln, it would just burn out much the same way pencil marks burn out on green or bisque ware.

It is expensive to get started and depending on the amount of decal paper, each sheet can costs as much or even more than $1.20.  However, once everything is purchased, the imagination can run wild.  I predict that when art historians look back on this time period that our iron oxide decals are going to be very collectable and sought after.  Why? Because for the first time in history we have a way of putting design on pottery that has never been available to the average artist.  It is extremely unique and I think Marsha has the right idea about including a copyright statement in her store. I'm going to start doing that as well.

I want to close out this post with this lovely piece by by Yolanda's Clay .  Iron oxides are extremely versatile to work with in that you can put them on a colored glazed background.  This piece here sits on a lovely blue background, it is a flower within a flower. 

There is so much yet to experiment with in forms of this still new iron oxide media.  I can't wait to see how this new art media will continue to develop over the next few years.

I have enjoyed working with iron oxide decals, too, and if you click here you can see some of my drawings.  Thanks for stopping by and if you are a bead artist who has some iron oxide decals, be sure to leave a link in the comments so we can drop by and admire your creativity.


  1. You can also use china paint to color iron oxide designs. Here is just one example of that http://amazingporcelain.com/beads.php?p=d|cab|JC-001B-3 They can be used for a variety of design types and are not limited to copyrighted designs. They expand the possibilities primarily by reducing the time required to decorate the piece thus increasing the profit margin.

    To say that the iron oxide decals give us the opportunity to draw on the ceramic/porcelain is not really accurate. That ability has been available in at least two mediums for quite some time. You can draw with underglazes or china paints and those have been available for hundreds of years. What the iron oxide decals do for the drawing process is make it easy to reproduce identical designs from a drawing or other design and speed up the decoration process. I agree that they add a dimension to our work and that they can be a fun addition to the design opportunities. But I see them primarily as a way to streamline the process and make it much easier to reproduce and make matching sets of things with the same design in a variety of sizes.

  2. You just described it much better than I did. Thank you, Marsha!

  3. Great post Natalie. I am glad this method is so accessible to all.

  4. Love the post Natalie! Thank you for including my pendant on the post.

  5. Great post Natalie! Thanks for featuring my dragonfly focal(although I think you were too modest, you should have put a pic of one of your beads in not just a link.)

    Not to split hairs but I see both where Natalie and Marsha are coming from. When Natalie says "drawing" she is refering to design on paper which offers many options of line, shading etc..........even "ERASING" which are difficult to acheive working directly on ceramic. Add the scanner and computer to shrink, multiply and put back together and the decals are a real creative design tool not just a method of decorating quicker than by hand alone. I should know. I originally got into these thinking "quicker" but I succumbed almost immediately to playing for HOURS because of all the new possibilities they opened up and I have much I haven't gotten to.


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