Greek style coil pot with symbolism using sgraffito decoration technique

This lesson was adapted from Maria Lengauer and Justin Kramer’s lessons posted on  Thanks for their work in preparing it.


  • Clay–approximately 5 lbs (2.3 kilograms) – depending on size of pots.
  • Cloth covered table or board (Canvas cloth)
  • Board (8″ to 9″ (20 – 23 cm) wood or plaster bat for carrying pot)
  • Plastic bag–large enough for storage of work in progress.
  • Rolling Pins, Clay Slip and Brushes. Contrasting colored slip
  • Scoring and Modeling Tools – Pottery Tool Kit – Wire Loop Tools
  • Small container of water to moisten hands.
  • Circular base pattern–3″ to 5″ (7.6 to 12.7 cm) in diameter.


  • Coiling Techniques (pages 45-48) will be copied and handed out to students. (Warshaw, Josie, The practical potter a step-by-step handbook, Hermes House, 2001.)
  • Coil Building (page 33) will also be copied and handed out to students for further instruction and techniques. (Peterson, J, Peterson, S, The craft and art of clay a complete potter’s handbook, Fifth edition, Laurence King Publishing, 2012.)

History and Culture

  • Greek style ceramics
  • Plasticity: The workability of clay.
  • Sgraffito: Derived from the Italian work “graffire”.  This applies to decoration that scratches through an applied colour to reveal a different one.
  • Underglaze: Decorated colour applied to under a transparent glaze.  The term applies to any colour decoration using oxides, commercial underglazes, or commercial glaze and body stains.
  • Leatherhard: The stage reached by clay after drying from the plastic state whereby it is firm enough to pic up without distorting, but workable to cut, pare, turn or fettle, join clay additions, apply with slip and burnish, or laze for single firing.  It is recognizable by having a darker appearance than dry clay and being cool and damp to touch.

Planning Assignment (Handout)

· Think about an “event” or “happening” in your life that you wish to illustrate on your Greek influenced pot.

· Make at lease 2-3 thumbnail sketches. Due on__________________

· Think about which Greek pot shapes could accommodate your design the best

· Choose 3-4 of the many styles of Greek pots (from the handout) and make 3-4 thumbnail sketches. Due on_________________________

· After discussing your ideas for your pot with teacher then make a sketch of your image on the pot you’ll build in clay

· The final sketch of the pot should fit on an 8-x11 piece of paper. Make sure the lines are clean, straight, and the pot is symmetrical.

Sketches due on________________________

· On the bottom right corner of your sketch write the Greek shape name of the pot

· Pot must be at least 10inches high with functional handles

· Begin to plan for construction!

Assessment (2 different possible assessment handouts)


Greek Pot REFLECTION PAPER Name_______________ Date_____

Please answer the following questions by “reflecting” back to the process. Be descriptive and respond in full sentences. Please write neatly!

1. What are the qualities you like about your pot? Why?

2. What are the qualities that you don’t like about your pot

3. Compare your 2 drawings, how is your pot different from the original drawing plan? Describe.

4. Name all the techniques you used to create your pot (don’t forget handles!)

5. What were some of the obstacles you encountered during the construction of your pot? How did you resolve them?

6. Describe your experience using the sgraffito technique, what where the challenges, what did you do or not do to master the technique? Describe

7. Look at the Greek pot shape handout. Which shape does your pot most resemble? Or is it a combination of one or more shapes? Which characteristics does your pot have and from what Greek shape?

Give yourself a numerical grade in the following 4 categories; 99-0

1. Met criteria of the project_____

– 10 inches high (25.4 cm)

– Pot is Greek pot shape inspired

– Used sgraffito technique

2. Creativity ________Why?

3. Level of Effort/ Perseverance ____Why?

4. Craftsmanship ____Why?

Student is able to:

  • Describe the coil pot building process and apply this understanding to creating an actual coil pot.
  • Demonstrate good craftsmanship through the final appearance and construction of the pot
  • Create personal symbols and unified design with sgraffito decorating technique.

Rubric Revised from Marianne Galyk

Assessment Rubric
Student Name: Class Period:
Assignment: Traditional Coil Vessel – Sgraffito decoration. Date Completed:
Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment. Excellent Good Average Needs Improvement Other Rate Yourself Teacher’s Rating
Criteria 1 – Sketches showing use of elements and principles of design- motifs/symbolism planned and researched 10 9 7-8 6 0-5
Criteria 2 – Traditional coil vessel – symmetry – functional form – smooth surface. 10 9 7-8 6 0-5
Criteria 3 – Symbolism and motifs enhance form – clearly etched in surface – slip evenly applied. 10 9 7-8 6 0-5
Criteria 4 – Effort: took time to develop idea & complete project? (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time? 10 9 7-8 6 0-5
Criteria 5 – Craftsmanship – Neat, clean & complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media? 10 9 7-8 6 0-5
Total Possible: 100 points (Average score x 10) YOUR TOTAL Grade

Notes from other teachers


Note from Justin:

I use a mid-fire terracotta clay (fires to a earthy red colour). When the students have finished handbuilding and the clay is leather hard they apply a coloured slip. The coloured slip is made from white earthenware (usually dried pieces leftover from other projects that is put into a blender with water to make the slip). Added to the white slip is a clay body stain – you can get a range of colours including blues, reds, oranges, yellow, green, etc. This is applied thinly onto the surface. It is easier and healthier to scratch into the surface of the clay while it is still leather hard – i.e. before it is completely dry this avoids making fine dust.

Note from Judy Decker:

I didn’t want to gamble with my limited knowledge chemistry and problems with “fit”…. I bought Amaco slips. The natural black is a rich brownish black. Jet black is a bluer black. When I wanted a pure black, I bought black underglaze which worked similar to black slip. I used brown, white, blue and black Amaco slips. They come in powdered form and you mix what you need. The underglazes come in 16 oz. containers in liquid form. I used black, white, blue underglaze the same way as slip (as the blue underglaze was also a darker blue – more towards cobalt that the slip).

Bibliography – Art Lesson written by Justin Kramer – Art Lesson written by Maria Lengauer



KIS – Keep It Simple!

Plan, plan, plan, then execute!

Take your time and enjoy the process!



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