Sunday, 15 July 2012


Angie Lewin - Pale Day

Sgraffito means scratching or drawing into clay - the term derives from the Italian graffiare, to draw. It is one of the commonest and most widespread decorative techniques, found in all ages and cultures. However, it is one technique which I had not dabbled in until recently.

During the Henley Arts Trail in early May I was very impressed by the work of Bronwen Coussens who uses Sgraffito to decorate her pots in a style very similar to the work of the printmaker Angie Lewin. I discovered Angie Lewin's work earlier this year and fell in love with her prints inspired by the structure of wild plants. Here is an example of one of her woodcut prints.

For my first attempt at using sgraffito, I made a couple of small heart bowls from terracotta clay, coated the insides with white slip, then 'doodled' with a pencil to reveal the terracotta clay beneath. I have now bought myself a proper sgraffito tool. After biscuit firing, I painted Persian Crackle glaze on the inside of the bowls and fired to Earthenware.

Sgraffito heart bowls (~8cm)

I also experimented by covering a sphere of white St. Thomas clay with several coats of black slip, then 4/5 coats of white slip, which I drew into to reveal the black slip (hard not to also draw through the black slip without a ball-end sgraffito tool). I finished by burnishing the sphere using the back of a teaspoon. When the piece was fired to Stoneware I was pleasantly surpised at how shiny it was, I had expected to need to polish with wax. I also liked the 'smokey' effect which burnishing with the metal spoon had given. A useful experiment.
Burnished sphere (~10cm)
My next stage was to use some of my plant sketches as the starting point for decorating some pots using sgraffito.

 I 'pinched' some small pots in terracotta clay and practised my technique, very pleased with these...

small Sgraffito vases (~8cm)

...time to make a larger vase based on my sketch shown above...

Koru Sgraffito Vase (19 x 13 cm)
I am continuing to develop this technique, as I am very pleased with my results to date.

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