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 with roulettes. Some can be hand made using readily available supplies and some can be found at your local pottery supplier. All are super fun! – Jennifer Poellot 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.