Sketch & Stretch with Chandra DeBuse

In this installment of the Ceramic Arts Daily Video Series, Chandra DeBuse shares her techniques for constructing and decorating playful pottery. Using molds and templates made from bisqued clay, wood, and ...(Scroll for more.)

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Runtime: approximately 2 hours

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…craft foam, Chandra demonstrates three unique forms based on sketched shapes: a scoop, nesting dishes, and a thrown and altered yunomi. Chandra shows how to take advantage of the clay’s malleability, contrasting pillowy volume with the beautiful lines created by the molds and templates. She also shares her surfacing and glazing techniques for creating colorful, illustrated pieces, demonstrating inlaid lines with underglaze, as well as sgraffito and brushwork. Plus, she shows how you can combine all three using wax resist. By the conclusion, you will have picked up skills and ideas for creating personal pottery forms with colorful, layered surfaces.

Developing ideas with pen and paper

Once you’ve become proficient in wheel throwing and handbuilding skills, developing your own interesting forms can be challenging. Chandra addresses this challenge by first sketching on paper. She explains that the low-risk, approachable medium of pen on paper allows her to quickly get ideas down. Then she can cut the drawing out, refine it, and use it to make a more durable mold or template out of craft foam or plywood.

Stretched scoop

After explaining how she developed the template, Chandra puts a plywood drop mold to use to make a scoop. She creates the top and bottom of the scoop in one simple step by draping a soft slab over the mold and tapping the mold on the table top. Taking full advantage of the clay’s malleability, Chandra shows how to put the pieces together and enhance the curves to make one of her sweet signature scoops.

Nesting plates

When making nesting plates or bowls the biggest challenge is getting the separate pieces to nestle nicely into one another. So Chandra developed her craft foam template system, which allows her to create consistent pieces every time. But Chandra doesn’t merely trace her templates to make the pieces all the same size. With templates made of craft foam, she can use them DURING the forming process, which not only provides support, but also creates lovely lines on the work. Chandra demonstrates three different ways to use these innovative templates!


Chandra uses craft foam in another inventive way in her wheel-thrown yunomis. This time she creates template strips with organic undulating lines. She lays these strips on the freshly thrown form and pushes the soft clay into the negative space creating billowing low-relief contours that invite touch.

A story to top it off

The fun is not over once the posts are formed! Chandra moves on to her playful narrative decoration and explains her strategies and techniques for covering her work with imagery. She explains how a combination of fine line underglaze inlay, brushwork, and sgraffito creates a variety of lines, which adds to the depth in the surfaces. Then, she demonstrates how she brightens things up with candy colors using underglazes in a watercolor-like technique. She also walks through her glazing process, explaining how she addresses the challenge of firing her scoops, which are decorated from top to bottom.

“If you are interested in developing your voice through playful experimentation and hard work, you’ll find much inspiration in Chandra’s work and techniques.”

About the Artist

Chandra DeBuse discovered her love for functional pottery in 1998 at a community pottery studio, Down Under Pottery in Lincoln, Nebraska. She then studied at Penland School of Crafts and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before getting my MFA from the University of Florida in 2010. Chandra has completed artist residencies at the Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, Forida, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. In 2012, she established her own studio in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been making pots there ever since. That same year, Chandra was named one of six emerging artists at the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference in Seattle, Washington. To learn more about Chandra DeBuse, please visit


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