What's a sgraffito?

Sgraffito (Italian: [zɡrafˈfiːto]; plural: sgraffiti; sometimes spelled scraffito) is a technique either of wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colours to a moistened surface, or in pottery, by applying to an unfired ceramic body two successive layers of contrasting slip or glaze, and then in either case scratching so as to reveal parts of the underlying layer.[1] The Italian past participle "sgraffiato" is also used, especially of pottery.

Doing sgrafitto is so much fun! When I make a piece I wait for it to become leather hard. Somewhere between “don’t touch me or I will fall down” and “Don’t even try it or I will break” . That’s when I do my drawing on it.

Leather hard tray

painting slip pottery.jpg

Next, I paint the image with colored slip. (soupy clay) This is a favorite technique of mine. So much fun to do. Part painting and part drawing, it tickles all of my artistic senses. 

Once I have painted two coats of slip and let it dry, it’s time to start scratching. I use a special tool made for sgraffito but when I can’t find it, I use just use a wooden skewer or anything else with a point that will do. The tool does the best job though if you want differentiation in your lines.

Another tool that can be used for sgraffito.

Another tool that can be used for sgraffito.

If I make a mistake and get a bit carried away with the scratching, it’s easy to fix.

I just fill it back in with wet slip

I just fill it back in with wet slip

it’s sgraffito designHere is the whole tray finished with

As I write this, the piece is in the kiln. I will post it to my Instagram and Facebook accounts when it’s all done, so stay tuned! In the mean time, here are some finished examples of my sgraffito work below.

Be sure to visit me on the Chester County Studio Tour May 18-19, 2019 where you can see these and many more works on display and for sale. Click on the link below for information and directions. I will be at Studio 54 on the map (Joan Brooks)