This process outlines the basic construction of iconic Jasperware-style decorative elements, utilizing sprig-molded components and two tones of clay. 

Jasperware, an unglazed stoneware ornamented with white clay figures on a colored ground, was developed in the 1770s by the English potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795). One of Wedgwood’s earliest and most profitable uses for Jasperware was in the production of exquisitely detailed portrait medallions. While Wedgwood’s original Jasperware formula remains proprietary, this article outlines an approach to making Jasperware-inspired medallions using ordinary stoneware clay in conjunction with traditional modeling and sprigging techniques. 


The first step in creating a Jasperware-style medallion is to model a bas-relief figure in wax, plasticine, or clay. For this demonstration, I chose to model a 3-inch portrait of Pierre Beaumarchais in the traditional 18th-century manner; with white wax on slate using homemade bone modeling tools (1). Whatever sculpting medium you chose, be sure to avoid undercuts in your model, which could make molding and sprigging difficult. 

1 Model a bas-relief figure in wax or plasticine, avoiding all undercuts.


From the finished model, the next step is to make a plaster sprig mold. To contain the plaster and prevent it from sticking, brush on a thin coating of a release agent and run a clay fence around the perimeter of the modeling board. Next, mix up a batch of plaster and slowly pour it into one corner, allowing it to flow over and around the relief (2). After a few hours, separate the hardened plaster from the model and chamfer any jagged corners with a knife before setting the mold aside to dry (3). 

2 Before pouring a plaster mold, brush on a light coating of oil to act as a separator and run a fence of clay around the figure. 3 Chamfer the edges of the mold with a knife to prevent them from chipping.

4 When the plaster is dry, press clay into the mold cavity with your fingers. 5 Level the clay with a wooden rib, working slowly to avoid tearing the impression.


When the plaster is dry, select a smooth earthenware clay with good plasticity and press it into the mold cavity (4). Then, use a wooden rib to trim off the surplus, being careful not to tear the impression (5). Gently release the sprig with a spatula, palette knife, or piece of wet clay and slide it onto a damp plaster bat (6). 

Next, put on rubber gloves and a dust mask and knead some ceramic pigment into a wet lump of the same clay (7). The pigment I used for this project was blue-green cobalt oxide (PB36) in a ratio of approximately one part pigment to 50 parts clay by weight. Besides cobalt blue, other traditional Jasperware colors include cobalt green, manganese violet, and black. 

6 Gently release the sprig from the mold with a palette knife, spatula or lump of clay. 7 Wearing gloves and a dust mask, use ceramic pigment to make tinted clay for the background.

8 Use a paper template and needle tool to cut out the background shape. 9 Wet the background with water and use a palette knife to position the sprig, pressing it down gently with your fingers.

When the clay is uniformly tinted, cut out a background shape from a pressed slab using a paper template and needle tool (8). With a soft brush, wet the background and then position the sprig with a palette knife. To eliminate air pockets, gently press the sprig down with your fingers, starting from the center of the figure and working outward (9). 

Jasperware-style medallion, 3 ½ in. (9 cm) in height, sprigged and pigmented stoneware, fired to cone 6 in oxidation, 2023.


When the clay is bone dry, it is ready to bisque fire. I do not apply a glaze, as this obscures the outline and details of the modeling. 

the author Ross Pollard is a medallic artist living in rural Minnesota. He holds a degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is self-taught in the art of bas-relief modeling.