This last past few weeks I have spent sgrafitto carving mugs, and plates and bowls. It seems like it takes forever to carve one piece but I do enjoy it, in a zen like way.

Adding color to a sgrafitto carved mug with underglaze
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I carve all my pieces in the leather hard stage. Although I apply the black underglaze (or whatever background color I am using) at leather hard if I am going to add more color, like in the above photo, I do it at the bone dry stage. I find that my colors are richer and brighter because they are not “blending” into the white clay.

So now its time to add some color

With everything now carved its now time to add some color. My Underglaze of choice is Amaco Velvets. I have tried a few other brands but I keep coming back to them. For my work I have some favorite colors.

  • Black (of course) – Jet Black V-361
  • Intense Yellow V-391
  • Baby blue V-325
  • Medium blue V-326
  • Chartreuse green V-343
  • Leaf Green V-354
  • Turquoise Blue V-327
  • Violet V-380
  • Red V-382
  • Bright Red V-387
  • Flame Orange V-389
  • White

I have a lot more colors than these but these are the ones that I use constantly. You have seen my work and you know I love color. These colors all blend so well together. There are a few underglaze colors that I have lots of trouble with, like royal blue! For me, it turns too dark and many times it bubbles up during glaze firing so now I avoid it.

Greens also tend to give me a lot of trouble. They seem to burn out on me at cone 5 and turn brown. Making my own green by mixing yellow or chartreuse with a bit of blue seems to work better.

Making these tiny dishes was a fun way for me to test various underglaze combinations. I could see which colors looked great layered and which ones disappeared into each other.

Small trinket dish with vibrant underglaze color
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These tiny dishes are a wonderful way to experiment with various layers of underglaze.

Although Amaco makes an underglaze palette I decided that I would make my own so that I could fill it with the colors I use. I wanted one that had a cover so that the underglazes would stay usable and wet. I bought this Airtight Watercolor palette on Amazon. I really like it although my underglazes still dry out! (So much for airtight). The wells are not that deep so I can refresh them as often as needed. There is lots of mixing space too, which is really nice. When I start a new batch of underglaze painting i lightly mist the wells of dry underglaze and allow them to become workable again.

When doing the artwork, I prefer a more watercolor look. Amaco underglazes are pretty thick out of the bottle so I water them down a bit in the mixing tray. Experiment around to get your look. The more coats you use, the more opaque the colors become.

Once all my pieces are carved and painted its time to bisque fire.

I bisque my pieces to cone 04. For the final glaze (cone 5) I currently use Kittens Clear which I mix up myself. If you are a potter, you can find the recipe on glazy.org

I should be able to finish underglazing all my pieces next week and hopefully get them fired so I have some new things to show you!

I hope I have covered enough to give you an idea of how I work and maybe inspire you to give it a try. Feel free to comment or ask any questions in the comment field below

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