Sgraffito is a strange word, in Italian it means to scratch. It is a pottery technique which has been used for hundreds of years. I grew up in North Devon and at the Burton Gallery in Bideford there is a wonderful collection of pottery, going back to the 1700’s, much of which is sgraffito decorated. A man called Reg Lloyd, a printmaker and potter, created the collection over many years. He sold it to Paul Vincent who had a great interest in ceramics and then someone managed to raise the funds for the Burton to acquire it. Such a suitable home for a fascinating historic collection.
The decoration is created by covering the body of the pot with a coating of slip in a contrasting colour. In my case I usually put black slip onto cream stoneware. The slip is just a runny version of the clay with colour in it.
It is grey until its final glaze firing. As it dries it becomes possible to scratch and carve through the slip to create an image. It is a tricky process requiring patience and good timing. I carve freehand so, as with lino cutting, there is no room for error and each ceramic piece is individual.