Technique of the Week

for the week of October 13, 2019

Sgraffito and Carving

is a form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting color, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing.
is the act of using tools to shape something from a material by scraping away portions of that material. The technique can be applied to any material that is solid enough to hold a form even when pieces have been removed from it, and yet soft enough for portions to be scraped away with available tools.
These are very similar so we are addressing them in the same post. Potters are more familiar and more adept at these techniques than most ceramists. However, it is always refreshing to expand our horizons and learn new techniques. It is my understanding that sgraffito is scratching and carving is cutting.
In the first picture we see a plate decorated by painting on black underglaze (or colored clay) and scratching through the black to reveal the white clay underneath. The second picture is done the same way but with a lighter color underglaze which should brighten up when fired.
In this picture we see the artist carving through several layers of color with a loop tool. Each color needs to be applied in several coats in order to have enough thickness to differentiate between the layers.

Here we see a bowl and a container where sgraffito was used to create a design. Note the two colors in each piece.

In these pieces  the carving itself is the design without the addition of color. The bird was obviously carved by an artist. But the piece on the left any of us crafters could do with a little practice and patience.

These pieces were cut all the way through the clay to create an open design.

The open design in these pieces is so they can be lit up. Or you could insert potpourri or maybe have small holes to hold individual flowers or toothpicks or pencils.

carving tools 1carving tools 2

Cutouts are done with special cutting tools, some are like cookie cutters, and others are tubes or loops. Also an Exacto knife can be used. Clay must be hard enough to keep its shape but soft enough to cut through without breaking.

Whether carving or doing sgraffito, these techniques are done on greenware. The pieces are  very fragile until after they are fired.

I am a novice at doing this but am willing to have a class session where we play around with it. There is so much to learn and so much to do. We tried a little carving at the MVCT Retreat this August. Also, tried some slip trailing which will be another Technique of the Week post.

Carol’s Carousel Creations
Where having Fun in why we come!

  • Open Classes — paint whatever you want

  • Workshops — learn a new technique (classroom style)

  • Party Van Workshops — we bring it all to you

  • Etsy Stores — AfricanAmericanKids and CarolsCarouselShoppe

  • We are now a Duncan Dealer and sell paints and supplies.



About carolscarouselcreations

I am a retired math teacher. My jusband and I have been pouring, cleaning, firing, and painting ceramics since 1970 and have been teaching since 1972. We are both Duncan certified and members of IADCCT (International Association of Duncan Certified Caramic Teachers) and MVCT (Mahoning Valley Ceramic Teachers), a local chapter in North East Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. We have a home studio where we teach Technique Workshops and have Open Class time. We also have a party van which we take to local nursing homes. A new addition in 2020 is our online Facebook Live classes/demonstrations. We have two Etsy stores AfAfKidsNFriends for our African-American pieces and CarolsCarouselShoppe for our carousels. Find us on Facebook at CarolsCarouselCreations or send us an email to
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