Cardboard Stencils and Colored Slips Add Imagery and Texture to Slabs

Creating Imagery with Cardboard Stencils and Slip

cardboard stencil

I love using stencils in my work. I’ve tried lots of different materials as stencils, but I had never thought to use cardboard. Karmien Bowman uses cardboard stencils to create lively imagery as well as dimensionality on her slab built pottery.

In today’s post, an excerpt from From a Slab of Clay, Daryl Baird explains Karmien’s process. — Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Having dozens of clay tools is by no means a prerequisite for slab work. But, don’t be surprised as you work on your initial projects that you start looking at the utensils in your kitchen drawers or at the hand tools in your garage and find yourself thinking, “I wonder how those would work on clay?” If so, good for you!

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Creating and Using Cardboard Stencils

Karmien Bowman of Flower Mound, Texas, creates stencils from pieces of thin cardboard. She places the cardboard shapes on a slab then brushes on slip which creates a raised texture.

After the slip sets up, she carefully removes the shapes. This needs to be done before the slip dries, otherwise it cracks off.

In the image below, Karmien uses a metal ring (a tart pan or springform pan from a cooking store might work well for this) to locate the best image and then cuts through the slab. Any shape can be cut using a fettling knife.

Finished shapes that have been allowed to set up over drape molds (bottom). Colored slips add distinctive designs to rolled slabs.

From simple trays and tiles to complex constructions, Daryl Baird shows you everything you need to know to get started and stay inspired for years in From a Slab of Clay

Learn more and download an excerpt!


cardboard stencil

Finished platter by Karmien Bowman.

Do you unusual materials like cardboard when stenciling? Tell us about it in the comments!

**First published in 2013.
  • Nancy J.

    I do something similar, but in reverse. I use things from my garden like leaves and ferns to create a resist and paint the slip over these items so they leave an impression when they are removed.

  • Jillian W.

    I think the craft foam is the most versatile, though I’ve also used roofing paper. Both of these materials last much, much longer than papers.

  • I do papercrafts and am a beginner potter. It just seemed sensible to me to use paper or cardboard stencils and cut-outs, and I have also used thin wood. I hadn’t seen anything about it anywhere, though, so thought I’d come up with my own unique twist! I must say, though, that the texture you are getting is way better than mine, and I will explore this more soon. Thanks!

  • Karmien B.

    So happy to see this! Daryl Baird’s informative book From a Slab of Clay, in its second edition, shares some of my techniques of slips and slabs using foam and cardboard, leaves and other found shape-plates, to cause & resist areas of color. It’s like print making. The shape-plates are rolled on a Brent Slab Roller, with the clay thickness no less than twice as thick as the shape-plates. Brush on Soto Slips or AMACO Under-glaze and allow the slip to become slightly dry before lifting the shape-plates from an edge with a potter’s pick. It is really fun to cut your own shapes to arrange or just take the best of a composition for a soft or stiff slab form. Thanks to everyone for their interest.
    Enjoy and be sure to share your discoveries!

  • Using cardboard to make stencils is a great idea. Another material I’ve found useful is sheets of flexible craft foam, which is sold at hobby stores such as Michael’s. Craft foam is fairly cheap, and is about the same thickness as cardboard. Stencils made with this material can be wrapped around a curved surface, so long as the curve is not too extreme. It can be used also to make straight lines on curved pots by cutting a strip about 1/4 inch wide, holding down the ends on a pot’s surface, then following along the strip with a pencil to draw a line. You then can remove the strip and go over the pencil mark with whatever colorant you are using.

  • Louise R.

    Karmien’s work is wonderful….she is an excellent teacher with so many great ideas and techniques. It’s so great to see a “local” artist featured in Ceramic Arts Daily!

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