Ceramic Decorator

The Job and What's Involved

Ceramic decorators decorate products like tableware, tiles and ornaments. They use a range of styles, depending on current fashions and the type of object they are decorating.

Much of the decoration on mass produced products is applied by fully automated processes, while more intricate work is painted by hand.

The work includes:

  • Applying glazes to make the pottery waterproof and durable, and/or to create a decorative effect - this is either done by dipping the objects into a bath of glaze or spraying.
  • Applying pre-printed designs called lithographs and transfers which are soaked and then carefully positioned on the item.
  • Operating machines that apply coloured inks and paints directly on to the object.
  • Using an airbrush to paint freehand or produce stencilled designs.
  • Filling in outline designs with hand painting.
  • Using hand painting to copy detailed drawings or patterns.
  • Using precious metals like gold to add decoration.
  • Adding bands or lines of colour.
  • Using pre-cut sponges and ceramic colours to apply patterns to the item.

Ceramic decorators also carry out regular quality checks and ensure that the production line is clean.

They may work alone, or with a group of other ceramic decorators or artists. In smaller studios they liaise closely with the ceramic designer (ceramicist).

They must also understand the importance of health and safety when working in a factory.

Ceramic decorators usually work 39 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Overtime may be available at busy times. Some companies operate shift systems. People working in craft potteries, particularly those in tourist areas, may work weekends and bank holidays, when visitors are most likely to want a tour of the pottery.

Working environments can vary from large factories to small workshops or studios. Conditions may be hot, but the workplace is usually well lit.

Most of the work is completed sitting at a workbench, although glazing is often carried out while standing.

Starting salaries may be from around £10,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The pottery industry in the UK employs around 20,000 people. Businesses range from self-employed craft potters working alone, to organisations with over 1,000 employees. Overall, there is a decline in the number of people employed in the industry.

The majority of manufacturers are based around Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands. Craft potteries are found throughout the UK, particularly in tourist areas. They specialise in hand-made and hand-decorated items.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices and on recruitment websites.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements to become a ceramic decorator, although a qualification in art and/or a portfolio of work may be useful for jobs involving freehand painting.

Leisure courses in pottery and china painting are offered throughout the UK. They give an introduction to some of the skills required to decorate ceramics by hand. Some lead to recognised qualifications, such as the City & Guilds Certificate in Design and Craft at Levels 1 to 3.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Those aiming to work in craft potteries may study for qualifications such as HNC's/HND's, Foundation degrees and degrees in subjects like ceramics, art and design or three-dimensional design. These are available at many universities and colleges throughout the UK.

To join an HNC/HND course, applicants need at least one A level/two H grades, or the equivalent, in art and design subjects.

Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades, plus five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Many students complete a year's foundation course in art and design before starting a degree. Candidates who have completed the foundation course may be able to start their degree in the second year. Entry requirements vary, so candidates should check with individual institutions. Applicants are often required to show a portfolio of work.

Many people train for this career through an Apprenticeship in ceramics.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Training is usually carried out on the job, under the guidance of an experienced colleague. New entrants start with simple tasks before progressing to more detailed work.

Ceramic decorators in England and Wales can gain recognition of their skills by working towards NVQ's in Manufacturing Ceramic and Associated Products at Levels 1 to 3.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A ceramic decorator needs:

  • To have steady hands.
  • Good eyesight and hand-to-eye co-ordination.
  • A strong sense of design and colour.
  • To be able to concentrate on repetitive work for long periods of time.
  • To be patient and careful.
  • To work accurately and pay attention to detail.
  • To have artistic skill for freehand painting.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion prospects for ceramic decorators may be limited. Those with experience and relevant qualifications may become team leaders, trainers or assessors. In larger companies there may also be opportunities to move into other areas, such as sales.

Those who develop the necessary skills and experience could become junior ceramic designers. Some may become self-employed.

Get Further Information

British Ceramic Confederation (BCC), Federation House,
Station Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2SA
Tel: 01782 744631
Website: www.ceramfed.co.uk

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