Scratching Through

sgraffito vaseTo finish up a stretch of blog posts on vessels, I have for you this interesting ceramic vessel done in a style easily translated into polymer. The technique is referred to as sgraffito. The beautiful texture and imagery are created by scratching into a surface that reveals a contrasting surface beneath it.

This vase is the work of Terri Kern whose choice of large bold scratches add to the illustrative and dreamy quality of her imagery. The way she has to work in ceramics makes the process all the more impressive. “Black is painted on in a small section and while it’s still wet, a carving tool is used to carve away the black to reveal the color underneath.  It normally takes as long to apply black as it does to apply all the other colors combined on any given piece.”

This is where polymer would have the advantage. Although I have only done this in small decorative swathes, it is quite easy to lay a very thin layer of clay on top of a thick contrasting color, run it through the pasta machine until the top layer is even thinner and then you can scratch or carve the raw clay. It has got to be faster than the process necessary to scratch wet glaze out on ceramic clay. You can also shape and cure the polymer layers and then scratch or carve the surface afterwards since cured polymer, especially when still warm, is quite easy to carve.

The two approaches yield a different kind of mark with soft edges in raw clay and very sharp and smooth edges in cured clay. Although I have not tried it, I imagine you could apply a very thin layer of raw clay to a cured piece and scratch the raw clay which would create a uniformly shallow mark. It would be fun to try and I have it on my to-do list!

I was thinking you could also go over the scratched areas with paint, the way you apply an antiquing effect. I got the idea while I was analyzing Terri’s work since it looks like some colors would have been laid back in after scratching. That could really add up to some beautifully complex and intriguing color.

You can also use oil paints on raw clay as shown here by Kate of Kalinkapolinka. This is actually the page through which I found Terri’s very intricate work. Want to see more from Terri? Go to her website here.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Scratch out a little something this weekend. Whether you try one of the sgraffito ideas listed here or just scratch at the clay for textural purposes, let you mind go as you doodle-scratch your way to some interesting effects and imagery.


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One comment

  1. I am fortunate to live near Cincinnati. My daughter introduced me to Terri and her work some years ago and I am happy to have several of her pieces in my collection. Her work is truly inspiring and I’m glad that you chose to share it with the followers of your blog.

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