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Published Aug 1, 2022

I love the versatility of the ceramic surface. Treat it one way and it can look shiny and new, and treat it another way, aged and weathered. Ceramic artist Lisa Pedolsky prefers the latter look.

In today's post, Jonathan Kaplan explains how Lisa works in layers and stages to create her distressed surfaces. Lisa also shares a low-fire glaze and engobe recipe. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

If you are looking to create pots that have an active and engaging surface with a sense of history, you don’t need complex tools. You just need to create the surface in layered stages. Lisa Pedolsky shows her method for creating distressed surfaces here.

Once Lisa finishes building one of her clay constructions and the piece set up to what Lisa refers to as “cheese-hard,” she begins the decoration process by using a serrated rib over the entire surface with the exception of the bottom (figure 1). By moving the serrated rib in a random fashion, the marks take on an arbitrary and casual appearance. Additionally, she uses the end of a wooden skewer to press more singular marks in the surface.

Excess clay bits are removed with a brush, then, using a soft plastic rib, she softens the hard edges of the serrated lines in a variegated, almost unintentional way to give the surface texture a distressed appearance. Using a pencil and a straightedge, she defines the feet from the ground plane with a line (figure 2) then does the same for the lid separation areas. Once these marks are complete, Lisa cuts four paper templates that will further define a center band on the sides of the box. After wetting them completely, she adheres them to the center of each side of the box with a sponge.


Are you a sucker for surface? Check out Erin Furimsky's Layered Surfaces DVD in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop!

Using a technique similar to dry brushing, Lisa lightly applies two coats of White Engobe Base in yogurt consistency to all the exposed clay surfaces (figure 3). The engobe is not worked into the texture. Using a metal tool with two wire tines at the end, she defines a line at the edges of the paper strips. The wet paper resists the engobe and upon removal, reveals the textured clay (figure 4).

Two small semi-spherical “bosses” are added to indicate the correct positioning of the lid to the body. After drying, the piece is bisque fired to cone 06.The final decoration begins by applying a watered-down black stain. Wearing gloves, Lisa applies a watery coat of Amaco V-361 Black Velvet Underglaze with a brush to fill the surface texture (figure 5). After coating the entire exterior of the piece, she uses a closed-cell tile sponge and lots of water to remove any excess stain so that it remains only in the textured areas (figure 6).


Before glazing the inside of the box, the rim and flange receive a coat of wax. She uses a clear glaze and adds a small percentage of iron oxide so that there is some depth to the color over a red clay body. Moving to the outside of the box, Lisa brushes on a heavy application, two to three coats, of a thick, black satin matte glaze in the center stripes on each of the four sides (figure 7). After the black glaze has dried, she covers the surface with dots of a glossy clear glaze. Using a slip-trailing bottle with a fine applicator, the dots are put on in even spiral patterns to achieve a random and casual look (figure 8). After all the decoration is complete, the piece is glaze fired to cone 04.

**First published in 2014