Last term in my Ceramic Sculpture class at Stroud College, a student asked me how you could get a certain effect on clay. A sort of scraped back, flaking, weather worn paint effect, something like this perhaps?

Well we started off with a demo of using slip. One of the most suitable methods I thought was transferring slip using newspaper to create a worn, flakey look. We started with leather-hard terracotta to give a good background colour and printed layers of pale yellows and pinks. Slip was painted on to newspaper then allowed to dry a little until the wet sheen had disappeared. it was then place face down on the slab, the back of the paper wet with a water spray and a firm pressure applied until the slip had transferred to the slab.


And what we got was pretty interesting. Lots of mottled layers and broken edges. The criss-cross shape on the left of the slab is a print using pink slip, again using the newspaper transfer technique. The slip was painted in this design onto the newspaper then transferred as before.

We then tried the same technique with bone-dry porcelain paperclay. Using a darker slip palette (black and red) we transferred areas of slip in the same way with newspaper.

On this sample the print showed more of the brush-marks and printed more towards the edge giving a nice outline to the slip area.the orange/yellow slip transfer design was also successful. Below the round painted circle (painted not transferred) you can just see the faint grid marks of a print using muslin instead of newspaper. And in the detail to the left above, over the yellow/orange brush mark transfer, you can just make out the dot pattern which was the result of using muslin as a stencil.

We played around a little with sgraffito (scratching through the layers of slip) on these samples, then I moved on to demonstrating an alternative sgraffito technique using an oxide wash on bone dry porcelain paperclay, the theory being that paperclay has the strength and water-wicking properties needed to withstand repeated application of wet oxides that sgraffito decoration may entail. Using a wash of black iron/manganese/cobalt oxide meant that super-fine scratched lines could be achieved, although there was a little risk of smudging that wouldn’t be experienced with slip.

We got some nice effects for a quick experiment!

Finally, last week I showed the group how to use laser prints to transfer simple high-contrast designs onto clay, a technique very similar to the newspaper transfer above. Here is a useful tutorial on how to do this. We got a range of results, depending on the detail of the original print, on the wetness/dryness of the slab and of the slip on the paper.

Next week we’ll look at using the same technique to transfer some text.



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