Sgrafitto pottery

Sgrafitto pottery

My daughter Sam and I have been taking pottery classes at the Markham Museum for the past few months. It has a fantastic studio space with lots of tools and glazes. We have been making some great stuff, and it’s been nice time that we have spent together. We decided that it’s more about the process and enjoyment of making, more than the finished products.

I have been wanting to try this technique for years called, Sgrafitto. It is a technique where you scratch off a layer of underglaze or paint, from a piece of clay to make a design or pattern with the contrast of the white clay underneath. I have had a lot of fun with it and have spent hours and hours watching Netflix and carving my plates. Here are some of my finished pieces from last session.

You might be wondering why I would be making so many plates… well….I am so excited to tell you! The McLaughlin Gallery and museum in Oshawa is now selling my pieces in their gift shop!!! I’m not going to be able to retire from the money, but it might pay for my pottery classes, and I can cross off selling in a gallery from my bucket list!! Here is my display on the gallery shelves, and a pic of the gift shop, in case you are ever in the area.

Anyways, as much as I would like to go on about how excited I am to be selling in a real live art gallery, let me show you how it’s done!

I start with a hunk of clay..Then, I roll it flat with a rolling pin, just like play dough, or pastry.

Here’s a tip: if you are not that great at rolling out a consistent thickness, use a couple dowels on either sides as guides. They will prevent you from rolling too thin, and will make they clay the same thickness all over.

Once I have rolled out an even layer of clay, I use styrofoam plates to cut them out the correct sizes, and I smooth out the clay and the edges with my fingers. Then, I use an underglaze, which is basically a coloured clay, to paint the top of the plates. Most of the time in pottery, you fire or bake your pieces, then glaze or paint them and they are fired again. But with underglaze, you paint it on when they clay is still wet. This way I can carve designs into them before the clay is hardened in the kiln.

As you may already know, I have a few issues with hoarding things like egg cartons, and containers. One of the things I am unable to throw out is sushi containers. They are so pretty, and the perfect size for baking, so I just wash them, and store them in my basement, along with the other things I hoard. Anyways, turns out they are the perfect size for my plates! I make the plates in the studio, put them in sushi containers to take home, and then take them home to finish for homework. I am also using them to package the finished plates with my business cards. Here’s a pic.

So once the plates have a couple coats of underglaze, it needs time to dry…. like a day or two. I never start carving right away, I have learned that you have to wait a couple days until the clay has started to harden, so you don’t gouge the clay when you carve it, but it also cant be too dry because then you end up having to scratch the underglaze off the surface.

Once the clay is ready, this is the part I love! I turn on a Netflix show, or movie, and start carving! I do many different designs. I usually know what I want to do before I start, but I basically freehand the designs. Rather than try to explain, I have filmed myself carving a couple different designs.

Then, I let the plates completely dry, pack them back up in the sushi boxes, take them to be bisque fired, or baked. Once they have been fired, they are hard, but dull and need to be glazed. So I put three coats of clear glaze on each plate, send them in to be fired again, and that’s it!

I have to say that the for couple months that I have been doing this, my learning curve has been huge. I have gotten so much better. I’ve even tried some new designs like summer, and food…(since I know my family reads this, try to find the Tiny Tom’s donuts on the summer plate šŸ™‚

The above two plates haven’t been fired or glazed yet, but I’ll try to share a pic once they are done!

Hope you enjoyed!

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