This post was made by Michael M. Grant, check out his work at http://www.michaelgrantdesigns.com/. If you’re interested in posting on our blog, shoot us an email!

There are a huge number of ways to decorate a thrown-clay vessel including piercing the wall of the vessel to cut in a design or carving the inner or outer wall of a vessel while the clay is leather-hard. For an even more interesting and challenging project, consider piercing and carving a double-walled thrown vessel like a vase thrown with porcelain clay.

The first step is to throw the vessel. There are many videos available on the internet (e.g. YouTube) demonstrating how to do this.  Once the double-walled vessel has been thrown and allowed to dry to leather-hard, follow these steps to create a pierced and carved design.

  1. Create a design on paper if you are not comfortable simply free-handing one. Cut out the design and spray it very lightly on the back with water and lay it on the external wall of the vessel. Trace around it very lightly with a pencil. Make sure you deal with the area where the external wall air hole is first.  Locate your design so that it incorporates the air hole into a portion of your design that will be cut out.
  2. As you pierce and cut using a craft knife remember that the clay you do not cut away has to support the exterior wall so leave enough connections at the top and bottom to provide this support.
  3. Be careful, especially at the top and bottom of the external wall not to cut into the inner wall of the vessel.
  4. When all the gaps have been cut out, carve the design you want with carving tools. Always be aware of the amount of pressure you are exerting on the leather-hard external wall and do not carve so deeply that you overly weaken the carved area. Leave at least ¼” of clay beneath the area you are carving.
  5. Be careful as you hold the vessel not to apply too much pressure against the external wall. Using a banding wheel helps and you can also sit the base of the vessel on your leg or some other soft support as you carve.
  6. Carve your design over the portion of the external wall and then go back and refine the carving. A pierced and carved design looks best when the gaps are smooth and the interior wall can be seen and is smooth.
  7. Lightly wet brush over the carved design to smooth things out.
  8. Let your vessel dry very slowly, bisque fire, gently sand rough spots, and pick a glaze for the vessel’s interior and exterior portion of the interior wall that is different from the exterior wall glaze. The easiest way to glaze is to dip the entire vessel into the interior glaze and then wipe it off the carved exterior wall.  Paint on the exterior wall glaze, fire and enjoy your creation!