Roll Call: Seven Great Handmade and Store-Bought Roulettes for Adding Texture to Pottery

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Nothing decorates a pot faster than rolling a pattern into wet or soft leather-hard clay. Whether you’re working on the wheel or with slabs, rolling a decoration is fast, easy, and adds visual interest to your surfaces.

In today’s post, Bill Jones highlights seven great tools for rolling texture onto pottery. Some can be hand made using readily available supplies and some can be found at your local pottery supplier. All are super fun! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


There are two basic types of rolling texture tools—roulettes and texture rollers—and they are both capable of impressing a continuous repeat pattern on clay. These tools are readily available from your local ceramic supply and you can also make your own.

Clay

The most readily available and flexible material to use for a texture roller is clay. Begin with a coil approximately an inch in diameter and any length and allow it to set up. Roll it on a textured surface, like the back of a rug, then bisque fire. If you want to carve a texture, do it freehand or create a pattern on paper using non-permanent ink so the moist clay will pick up the design. Your pattern needs to be a little over three times the diameter of the roller.

Plaster

Plaster is a great material for creating fine detailed patterns. Set cardboard tubes upright in a pie pan and seal the outside bottom with a coil of clay. Pour plaster and allow to set up. Remove the cardboard, saw the rough ends square then carve. Be sure to clean up all plaster chips and residue so it will not contaminate your clay.

Tip: Although not as durable, those big pieces of sidewalk chalk are easy to carve as well.

Wood

You can make texture rollers from wood dowels or rolling pins using Puffy Paints or hot glue to create patterns. Also, wrapping a piece of wood with heavily textured fabric, doilies, yarn, string, or cord creates interesting textures as well.

MKM Tools manufactures a wide selection wooden roulettes in three different widths (1.5 cm, 3 cm, and 6 cm) called Rollers4Clay. Each roller can be easily mounted on a single universal handle, and there are dozens of patterns available. The rollers can be used by themselves or along with MKM’s wooden stamps. These rollers are made out of a fine-grained wood and cut deeply to leave a bold impression. The rollers are coated with Tung oil for durability.

Bamboo

Puffy Paints or hot glue are a quick way to add texture to a roller. Ready to use in 1–6 hours.

Although actually a grass rather than a wood (as you might expect due to its durability), bamboo has been used to make texture rollers in the Far East for centuries. Bamboo Tools makes rope markers by wrapping bamboo with different thicknesses of rope in a variety of configurations. Rope markers were used on pottery during the Neolithic period in Japan and the name Jomon, meaning “cord-marked,” which described the pots made by these people, became the name for the entire culture.

Rubber/Plastic

The newest texture rollers on the market are made from high-quality nonstick rubber and fit on a small paint roller-type frame. The rollers are easy to change so only a single handle is needed. Amaco makes clay texture rollers with four different patterns that are 4¼ inches long and Xiem makes a 7-inch roller with 31 interchangeable patterns.

In addition to these manufacturers, Chinese Clay Art  has patterned rollers the size of rolling pins in 9- and 10-inch lengths for texturing large areas.

Sources

Check the websites of the manufacturers to see their complete selection of roulettes and texture rollers. Your local ceramic supplier may also carry a selection of their tools.

Amaco

Bamboo Tools

Chinese Clay Art

MKM Tools

Xiem

Images of do-it-yourself rollers excerpted from Daryl Baird’s forthcoming book From a Slab of Clay. Thanks to David Gamble (Amaco), Rick McKinney (MKM Tools), David Lee (Bamboo Tools), and Kevin Nguyen  (Xiem Clay Center) for additional images.


 

**First published in September 2011
Comments
  • I recently purchased 2 of the Xiem rollers. I am so glad that I did, very easy to use, great textures too. I have used these on slab rolled projects, platters, birdfeeders and such. The textures seem to make my glazes pop even more. I also use other roulettes and stamps from other companies. Texture, Texture Texture, what a difference it makes!!

  • Reuse and recycle! Old wine corks are good for creating pattern making rollers. Use a dremel tool to add details then simply press over clay.

  • Thank you for all the great tips in this article. I am feeling very inspired to try some more texture techniques! I have recently been big into texture and my work is really improving from adding it to my work.Use the corrugated cardboard from your coffee sleeves for texture too. This an many other great techniques were taught to me at a workshop I took at Leslie’s ceramics (http://leslieceramics.com/). The teacher was Lynn Wood, aka the “Pottery Texture Queen” (http://potterytexturequeen.com/. She designs and sells texture matts (http://potterytexturequeen.com/rubberstamps.html) as well and shows great techniques for all levels on how to use them. They are fabulous and I have currently been using them a lot in my work (www.pufferfishpress.com – under “artwork” and then “pufferfish porcelain”).

  • I love the puffy paint on cardboard idea! I always teach a lesson on texture to my elementary students and ask them to use ordinary objects in a new way to make a stamp or imprint. This is a great way to teach them patience (it has to wait until the following session because of dry time) and positive/negative space. I can hardly wait! Thanks.

  • A little shameless self promotion:

    almost all of my work is done with wooden stamps that I carve. I generally carve a new stamp for each piece. I like the idea of a roller stamp though, especially for some larger pieces I want to try. Here is my site if you are interested:

    http://jamiezanesmith.com/

  • thx again CAD for sharing. I love simple techniques that hold such inspiration.
    And thanks for ‘shameless promotion’ Jamie!!
    How lucky are we to have this internet to be able to view such beautiful links

  • I love to make a small ball with 2 pinch pots put together; when it is close to leather hard I carve random patterns all over it. After it is bisqued you can use it as a round roller for texture. Different every time! (Don’t forget to put a tiny hole in it before you bisque it!)

  • I have used wooden toy wheels from a craft store. Carve into them with a dremel or whatever and use a 1/4 inch dowel between my thumb and first finger as the axle. I have used them on thrown pots and on slabs.

  • There is a silicone mold, made by Wilton cake decorating people, that is a strip of “little beads”, approx 6″ long. Mold clay into depressions and add to……..anywhere!

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