Pencil Pushing: A Homemade Pottery Tool for Stippled Texture

I‘ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love when potters come up with clever homemade tools. When perusing the archives of Ceramics Monthly, I came across yet another great idea for a homemade texture tool for clay. It seems #2 pencils aren’t just for standardized tests anymore! Studio potter Emily Rossheim and her apprentice Tom Marrinson use a bundle of them to create stippled texture on her work. Today, we’ll explain how they create and use these low-tech but super cool tools. I don’t know about you, but I’m already scanning my office looking for other things to bundle together for texture tools. -Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Emily Rossheim has found that the color of her bowls speaks loudly to her audience, so both Rossheim and Marrinson add only the tiniest bit of texture to finish off a vessel.

Through trial and error, Rossheim discovered that a box of wooden pencils that she sharpened and taped together create an effective pencil stippler. Once pieces have dried to the right hardness, the stippler can be applied to the outside surface of a bowl to create the textures that add interest to the piece without overshadowing the form and color. The only hitch is to watch the amount of pressure being applied. Too much force will puncture the surface and require repair. If the work can’t be repaired, it’s back to the drawing board.


To finish off the work, she and Marrinson low fire white earthenware at cone 04 to get pure clean color. Mostly, commercial underglazes are used, while some custom mixing is done. Many layers are applied to get a good application. The bowls are colored, inside and out, and fired once. The interior and exterior color combinations demonstrate a sophisticated and skillful use of color.

**First published in 2008


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