Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sgraffito Pinch Bowl Part Three

Look what I saw today in a small lake in downtown Inverness, Florida. An alligator! He was about seven feet long. At first only his eyes were visible above the surface of the water. Later he came up to sun himself, lounging in the water reeds. Doesn't he look like he's smiling?

If you just arrived on my blog, I pinched a bowl from a red clay called Navajo Wheel. Later when the bowl was bone dry I applied three layers of white slip to the inside of the bowl and let it dry completely. It doesn't take the slip long to dry on the bone dry bowl, overnight was sufficient. My intention is to carve into the white slip and the color of the clay beneath will reveal the design I carve.

I'm using the rounded portion of a trimming tool to carve through the white slip. Be sure to wear a dust mask when carving into dry clay since clay dust is hazardous to your lungs. I am sure there are better tools to use for sgraffito, but since I'm teaching myself, I used what I thought would work. If you know other tools which would work, please let me know. After using the trimming tool on dry clay I'm sure it will be dull and no longer good for trimming wet clay.

I hold the bowl firmly in my hands, but not so firm as to break the bone dry clay bowl. It isn't easy to carve through three layers of slip and I have to press very hard. I don't draw my design on the clay beforehand, I just eyeball the design and carve away. I was going to make the reverse of the previous sgraffito bowl(scroll down to the second photo), but I just couldn't make myself repeat that design this time. So I carved this spiral and let the end trail off the edge of the bowl where there was a slight intention in the clay at the edge. To complete the bowl, I'll bisque fire the bowl and then use a satin clear glaze and refire it.

If you'd like to see some very intricate designs using this same sgraffito technique be sure to visit Varda Sharon Kramer's blog and scroll down in the post to see her bowls. I can't imagine how long it must take her to carve the designs, which are truly exquisite. Comments and questions are welcome.


  1. nice link Linda- I use a variety of tools - I have never found just that one that does the trick. It depends on the design, wetness of the clay and what my mood is.

  2. Hi Meredith, thanks, I am working on bone dry clay, I will have to try wetter clay to see how that works.

  3. He is smiling thinking of how good you would taste. One thing I don't miss here in the Ozarks. They took the fun out of kayaking in Florida.

  4. Yes, lots of gators in Florida. I don't do a lot of carving, but I use a pencil and I carve while the slip is still damp. Check out Po Wen's blog today for some beautiful carving.

  5. Hi Patti, thanks, was the fun gone because of the threat of falling out of the kayak and the potential of them eating you? I wonder about that.

    Hi Tracey, thanks, I never tried this with the slip wet, perhaps that would make it easier to carve, I will have to try that, I'll check Po Wen's blog.

  6. Beautiful piece and great tutorial, thanks for posting. I can't imagine this is easy while on the road but you do see some great stuff.
    Have you tried carving with a nail. I'd wrap some tape around it to make a comfortable grip but it should work well.

  7. Good info, Linda..
    ..keep clear of the 'gators.
    ..I like the bowl.
    ..stay well. T.

  8. I hope you didn't smile back! I have also heard that a nail is a good tool to use, but I haven't tried it myself yet, I often use those bamboo skewers that you get for barbeques? Did you see the article about using a nail on ron philbecks blog?

  9. Hi Lori, thanks, no I haven't tried carving with a nail, thanks for the tip.

    Hi Trish, thanks, I saw the gater from a boardwalk so I felt safe, but was happy to finally see one.

    Hi Alison, thanks, I saw Ron's post after I did these, but was thinking about finding a nail and trying it next time. The bamboo skewer sounds good too, I'll have to pick some up for next time.


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