Students in Ceramics II create sgraffito tiles with famous inspiration

Cameryn Oakes works on her sgraffito tile.

Cameryn Oakes works on her sgraffito tile.

Using a single slab of clay, Ceramics II students started a project that includes designs carved into the surface. This project is called a sgraffito tile. Students will have to develop and use skills they have learned in the previous year such as molding to create this tile that will be displayed on the walls of the office once done.

“We start off with a block of fresh clay, and then the finished product will be a circular clay tile with a design that is achieved through the process of scratching off paint,” Cameryn Oakes said.

Sgraffito is the the process of layering colors and scratching off layers to create a multitude of designs and colors. This technique is not only used on tiles but also on advanced pottery. This was used famously in 16th century Italy, and  was used famously in Catalonia in the 20th century.

Before starting the project, students had to learn the basics of making a sgraffito tile, such as using the tools provided, operating a slab roller (what would eventually flatten the clay) and how to apply the paint so it would scratch off and create the design. The process is long and requires multiple coats of paint, design inspiration and scratching with pottery tools.

“We use sgraffito tools of varying shapes and sizes to achieve different scratchings and line widths. We are also provided a smaller fine pin tool that helps us to obtain the smaller details,” Oakes said.

Students must paint their flattened and dried clay one color, then after it has dried use the scratching tools to scratch in their design without scratching too much. This creates a contrast of color and a unique design.

“The most challenging part is the actual scratching of the tile, because you want to make sure it’s even and smooth, and you don’t want to scratch any of the clay away, only the glazed paint,” Emily Diggs said.

A unique quality of this assignment that was added is that rather than the students doing basic design engravings, they got to choose inspirations from different famous pieces of art. This was one of Danny Liu’s favorite parts of the project.

“The design was so fun, because I could find a unique design and bring it to life. My personal inspiration was ‘The Great Wave at Kanagawa’ by Hokusai, a famous Japanese artist,” Liu said.

Students had to use their skills from Ceramics I along with the skills specific to this assignment to create their own unique tiles based off of a chosen inspiration. Completed projects will be on display at the end of the unit.