What is Sgraffito Pottery?

Sgraffito is a pottery decoration technique, which involves incising or scratching a sgraffito design into the surface of a pot. The word sgraffito, derived from the Italian word ‘graffiare’, literally means “to scratch”. Contrasting coloured slip is applied to the surface of the pot, and once the slip has dried, but still retains some dampness, a stage which is called hard leather, the upper surface of slip is scratched to reveal the clay colour underneath. The sgraffito technique can be traced back to the ancient Greek and Roman pottery, in which it was used to create narrative scenes, tell stories, and depict myths and historical events among other things. All the following pots have been made in our pottery classes, some of which were made as a first pottery make and beginner sgraffito design.

Examples of sgraffito from professional potters and 7 Limes Pottery classes.

Where to get inspiration for your Sgraffito design

Where can you get inspiration from for your sgraffito design? Inspiration for pattern can be taken from nature, geometry, art, architecture, culture and everyday objects among other things. Traditionally narratives, mythology, stories and history have been told in sgraffito on ancient pots around the world. Textile designers spend their lifetimes creating patterns and so are a good source of inspiration. Here are some examples of contemporary creative pattern designs we’ve picked up that could form a source of inspiration to develop your own patterns: