A Good Scratch: Kathy King Gives Helpful Tips For Using Sgraffito in Your Work

Many years ago, I took a class at Ohio State University and Kathy King came for a visiting artist workshop. The workshop was a lot of fun and it was the first time I ever played around with the sgraffito technique. So I was excited to reunite with Kathy a few weeks ago at the Potters Council Splendid Surfaces Conference and shoot some video of her presenting some tips and techniques for successful sgraffito. Today, lucky readers, I am presenting that video. So have a look, get out some sharp tools, and start scratching! - Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


If you've never seen Kathy's work, be sure to visit www.kathykingart.com and browse her portfolio.




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This video was filmed at the Potters Council
Splendid Surfaces Conference at Amaco/Brent.
Go here to find out more about upcoming Potters Council workshops!


If you've never seen Kathy's work, be sure to visit www.kathykingart.com and browse her portfolio.
  • Amazing!!!! The technique of course, but most of all, your work 🙂 I like it very much.

  • She’s right this technique makes the black really pop, looks beautiful. thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Paola…. It is a good technique… depends on the Black glaze coating , we can get the white shading effects after firing. Thank you for sharing….

  • I love the look of sgraffito and haven’t done it in years. Thanks for the inspiration, you’re work is lovely!

  • Excellent! A great back up to the Splendid Surface workshop!

  • Hi Kathy,
    Enjoyed your demo at the conference and enjoyed the video again. Love it – the carving technique is addicting!

  • Thank you for the comments! It is funny how you don’t realize how long it takes until you are asked to demonstrate it…I wish I could put myself on “fast forward” sometimes and now I can! 🙂 Happy carving…

  • Enjoyed watching your video, love your work. Could you explain why you can put 7 coats of underglaze on a leather hard pot but not recommended for dry clay? Do you get a better bond? I have always decorated on dry clay, never 7 layers, maybe up to four. Thanks.

  • I love your technique Kathy. I was wondering if you could use this same technique with colour slip, and if so, how many layers of slip would you need on the piece to make it work?

  • Looked like a great instructional video but no sound.:( Not my computer. Sound was working fine except for this video.

  • In response to Irene: Because I fire to cone six, I need to put on a bit more underglaze to ensure that it reads as a solid black. If not, I’ve found that I can see brush strokes. If I fired to the intended low-fire 04 temperature, this wouldn’t be a problem!

    Carol (from 10:19am): Yes, I work with color (often from Amaco but also my own mixture made from my throwing bucket slip that I prepare). Because the commercial products add “gum” to make them more fluid coming off of your brush, it does take a few coats to get it on. Don’t get me wrong, that “gum” is awesome but for cone six firing – I have to “overdue” it a bit to work with my translucent glaze. I can do it by eye now but most commercial underglazes, I go for at least 5 quick coats. When I make my own slip it is usually a bit thicker and I can get away with 2 or 3. You get a feel for it after a while! I’ve had students who do amazing things by mixing/painting with colors and then carving through. Possibilities are limitless!

  • Hello Kathy,
    Thanks for a great video! I’ve just checked out your website, and see you mention firing the translucent glaze twice. Could you tell me why that is necessary?

    Thanks in advance.


  • Five to seven coats? Maybe you need to switch underglazes! I use a Duncan underglaze (called “brown black” I think, but it is so very dark no one would ever think it is brown). I also fire to cone 6 and use one or two coats with great results. Nice work! As always, I would love to see the finished product! Why do these videos never include that at the end? Show us what the piece you are working on looks like in the end, is that too much to ask? Also, here’s a little tip for all of those black and white scrapings…I recycle them into a very nice black clay and make small figurines from them. The black underglaze and porcelain clay combination makes for some very interesting results.

  • Dear Am – Thanks for the tips on the Duncan underglaze and I have tried their products as well as Mayco and Speedball. I still stick with the Amaco LUG-1 Black for the results I’m looking for. 5-7 coats is not a dire undertaking, it goes very quickly in the studio. I do show a finished example of the a fired piece using the same exact technique at the end of the video with the same design used for contrast to the fired tile.

    Flavia – I do not fire my translucent glazes twice unless I’ve gone an additional overglaze enamel/China Paint firing to enhance color. In that case, that would be an 018 firing. Firing my translucent glazes (either clear or tinted with colorants) works just fine in a single cone six firing.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • thanks Kathy, I enjoyed the video and your work. I wasn’t sure if the piece was fired, and then a clear glaze placed over it and then fired again? How rough or smooth is the texture of the finished work? thanks, Linda

  • I’m really impressed of the result. Thank you for your explanation Kathy. This video prooves the creativity of some people.
    Looking forward of more of your work.

  • I learned a great deal at your workshop in Indianapolis. My elementary students and I are trying your technique on tiles. Our designs, though, are very simple. We put seven coats on leather hard clay, applied the LUG 1, and then carved. My school might purchase some more ceramic tools. I remember that you said that one tool was your favorite for carving. Which one was it? Also, before I fire these, I want to verify that you fire the tiles with only the LUG 1 and then apply the clear glaze (3 coats). After that, you fire again.

    I will send you a photo of some of our work. My administration is thrilled with the new techniques that we are using.


  • Betty Page? A good scratch indeed!

  • Betty Page, perhaps? A good scratch, indeed!^

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