Thursday, July 9, 2015


This last couple of weeks, I've been continuing my exploration of surface design techniques and have been learning all about Sgraffito. I love it... It’s slow and methodical, not me at all, but the results can be amazing!

Sgraffito box by Neva Fiumara

Sgraffito and sgraffiti come from the Italian word graffiare ("to scratch"), ultimately from the Greek γράφειν (gráphein, "to write"). Related terms include graffito and graffiti.

“During the 16th century renaissance in Italy,  Sgraffito was utilised in wall art,  pottery decoration and canvas paintings. Sgraffito on walls has been used in Europe since classical times and its origins go back to Africa and Japan. It came to Europe through the Middle East. Because the Muslims were forbidden to eat from any metal wares, they had developed the decorative side of pottery to high degree. This also included the use of a sgraffito decoration. Both the North African potters and Spanish potters were imported into Italy to share their skills and techniques.  During the Reconquista of Spain, Spanish Muslim potters fled to North Africa, and to Italy and Byzantium, where their knowledge merged with the techniques of local potters to create new and exciting styles of pottery for Renaissance patrons of art.” (a fantastic reference website for all types of ceramic art)

House covered with sgraffito in the village of Pyrgi.

Palazzo Massimo Istoriato: a fading palace facade in Rome by Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino da Firenze, 1523.
In ceramics, sgraffito work is created by coating your unfired piece with a coloured slip or underglaze and scratching or carving through the surface to reveal the colour below.  I’ve only tried a couple of designs so far, but I have plans to reduce them down to bead size and make them wearable.

The first was a slab formed bowl. It's made from white stoneware with black slip which was carved through with a wire loop tool to create the design.

Sgraffito bowl

And another on one of my (badly) wheel thrown beakers.

Sgraffito beaker

I love to draw, carve and add colour, so this technique is all of my favourite things rolled in to one! It's also very relaxing to do. 

Looking around, I found lots of bead makers already using this fabulous ancient technique. And it isn’t just limited to beads, it can also be used in enamelling, polymer & painting.

The possibilities for using this ancient art are endless, and it's one of those techniques where your own personal style can really shine through!


  1. I love your slab formed bowl! This is a very interesting technique.

  2. Thanks for featuring my pendant, Caroline! Funnily enough I have been putting black slip on greenware today in anticipation of doing some tomorrow. Your pieces are fabulous - of course!

  3. Very interesting post. And a beautiful technique

  4. I'm anxious to see your pieces once they are fired! This is definitely on my ceramic bucket list!

  5. I always love learning the history of things! I truly enjoyed this! (You get "extra points" for including the Greek!) ;-)


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