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Sgraffito is the cutting through of one color layer to expose the underneath color. The colors I use are applied as a colored clay coating called an engobe and are sprayed on the leather hard porcelain before it is fired. I use automotive type spray equipment, and what is called a "detail gun". The colors are sprayed in circular bands that follow the shape of the pot and the gradations and blends that occur naturally are part of what makes the color work. I tend to use color sets, such as, black/green/yellow and crimson, and allow the colors to overlap each other. The water in the engobe softens the porcelain, so it has to harden again to leather hard before it can be carved.
When the pot has become leather hard again, it goes back to the potters wheel and lines that are circularly continuous are cut through the engobe while the wheel is spinning. This cutting is done with a tool made from the spring wire of a pocket watch, and one or many lines or spirals can be made.

The other lines are done free hand and an infinite variety of lines and shapes can be carved into the surface. This is sgraffito, the cutting or scraping away of one color to expose another underneath color. We all did sgraffito in school when we rubbed many crayon colors onto paper then covered it with black crayon, and scratched it away to get a multi-colored line. I do sgraffito through engobes on porcelain.

When the basic shapes or patterns are carved, the large areas of white are made by scraping away all the color. Using a larger wire tool, this area can be smooth or textured although it will all be white. This step takes a lot of time if a large area is exposed and is the last step of sgrafftio.

The sgraffito is the fun part for me. I enjoy making the shapes, but laying out the designs and seeing them appear right before my eyes is always a great pleasure. Each pot with its colored coating is a chance for me to explore the surface with lines and shapes and patterns. These designs are part of the surface but also reveal a core shape. It is this tension between form and surface that is endlessly fascinating for me. As I sgraffito, I remove the color which is darker and expose the porcelain that is white and lighter than the engobe. It is a way to find the light. After the pot dries thoroughly, it goes through a bisque firing that hardens the clay so that it cannot be dissolved with water. The glaze materials are suspended in water and applied as a solution, but because of the bisque firing the water does not dissolve the clay.
The glaze coating is made up of materials that will form a type of glass or glaze when fired in the kiln. It takes time and temperature for this fusing or vitrification to occur. Although I have fired my kiln thousands of times I still am excited by the possibilities of each firing. This transformation has aspects of transcendence and has a meaning beyond the mechanics of the process. I hope each piece is interesting to the minds eye, and a good example of what is possible with this process and these materials.

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on making square plate and doing sgraffito.

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