Relief Carving Techniques for Expressive Functional Pottery

relief carving techniques

Relief carving techniques do not have to be reserved for ceramic sculpture to ceramic tile. Many ceramic artists create highly decorative surfaces on their functional pottery with relief carving techniques.

Julie Woodrow is one such potter. Her incredibly fun and vibrant carved pottery is made with both additive and subtractive sculpture techniques. The result is delightful narrative pieces that are as much of a pleasure to use as they are to look at. In today’s post, an excerpt from the May/June 2018 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Julie shares her relief carving techniques. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. To see how Julie decorates her pots with underglazes, check out the May/June 2018 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated!


Adding Life to Your Pots With Relief Carving Techniques

Relief Carving Techniques–Layout your Design

If you habitually work from a sketch, challenge yourself to use guide lines as a structure to create a three-dimensional sketch directly on your pot. First, break up your space by segmenting the bottom of your pot equally in quarters (eighths) or thirds (sixths). Continue these guide lines up the sides to the rim of the pot. From above, check your lines at the rim to make sure each section is pretty close to even. I’m continually amazed how this separation of space allows complex designs to bloom out and around a form. Next, use a sharp pencil to lightly lay out your design (1).

1 After you divide up your space (this pot was segmented into thirds), use a sharp pencil to lightly lay out your design.

2 Use your pencil to lop off any 90° corners beside your lines. Try a variety of shallow, intermediate, and deep angles.

Relief Carving Techniques–Define your Edges

Drag your pencil or sgraffito tool at a shallow angle for clean, deep, clarifying lines. Provide counter pressure on the inside of your pot with your hand to gauge the force of your pencil, gain awareness of wall thickness, and keep track of the moisture content of your clay. Repairs are simple. If you carve too deep, score, brush on slip, and add clay of a similar moisture content to fill the area.

Five Great Decorating Techniques

Make surfaces that stand out when you download this freebie, Five Great Decorating Techniques.



Relief Carving a Leather-Hard Pot

Use your pencil to lop off any 90° corners beside your lines. Try a variety of shallow, intermediate, and deep angles (2). When separating an object from the background, create a gentle slope up and away from the deepest defining line. Many small changes in the angle of your carving strokes create lovely curves and a sense of depth and volume. Try tucking rounded shapes into one another to generate undulating curves and a sense of depth and volume (3). Construct stair steps that create progressions, tiers, or levels. Overlap abrupt angles to produce surfaces that mimic structures such as shingles and fish scales.

3 Many small changes in the angle of your carving strokes create curves and a sense of depth and volume.

4 Clean up dried carving crumbs then pour water into and out of the leather-hard pot to keep moisture content consistent.

Clean Up and Rehydrate a Leather-Hard Pot

Let clay crumbs dry a bit before sweeping them away with a dry brush. If you try to remove them when they’re still moist, they will clog your carved lines and make you crazy! After you clean up, pour water into and out of your leather-hard pot (4) and pat or spray the surface with water. Remember to repeat this step as necessary while you are carving and wrap work in plastic to encourage moisture back into the clay.

Build your decorating chops!

The ceramic surface is one of the most versatile outlets for creativity. It allows you to add personal touches at any stage of the process. In Surface Decoration Techniques, more than 30 professional artists with decades of experience share a wide variety of surface projects—from carving, etching and sgraffito, to layers, inclusions, and textures!

Learn more!

Relief Carving Techniques–Add Extra Dimension

Slip and score to attach small bits of clay to the high points of your design (5). Break free from the contour of your pot, enhance dimension, and add pizazz. The raised areas created by this technique are an especially satisfying addition to drinking vessels where fingers will irresistibly gravitate to these charming little bumps.

5 Score and slip the carved design to attach small bits of clay to the high points of your design.

6 Activate the surface with textures. Some textures are static while others have a distinct grain or directional flow.

Relief Carving Techniques–Add Texture

Activate your surface with textures (6). Notice that some textures are static or move around in all directions while others have a distinct grain or directional flow. Use that awareness to your advantage. Compliment your textures with the inclusion of some contrasting refined smooth areas (7). I also like to leave small areas rough and random to remind me of the fundamental nature of clay.

7 Include contrasting smooth areas, which are easily refined with a sgraffito tool, to create visual interest.

Julie Woodrow has a BAE from The Ohio State University and a Masters degree from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. She has taught high-school art students in Worthington, Ohio, for 24 years and shows her work at Sherrie Gallerie in Columbus (www.sherriegallerie.com) and Lillstreet Gallery in Chicago (https://lillstreetgallery.com). To see more visit juliewoodrow.art.

Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend