Behind the Scene

By Teresa Mandala

Behind the Scene

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I get asked a lot about what I use to make my sgraffito work. Here, I’ll go over the materials and tools I use.

Come take an up close look into my studio.
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Let’s start by talking about clay. The work I create often uses the underglaze ability to be transparent, showing the white clay body underneath. With this technique I am able to layer and layer a variety of colors to create my color blends.

Typically that limits me to porcelain and stoneware that has very fine grog (texture).

You may not be aware of this, but different regions have easier access to certain clays. The clays I worked with in Kansas City are harder to get here in Florida and vice versa. For the last four years I’ve been working with Little Loafer. It can be challenging to work with in large tiles, but I’ve learned to work with it.

Unfortunately, this week I found out the clay I use is backordered for two weeks! I was informed there is a nationwide shortage of clay. I managed to find a stoneware out of Maine that I could use – let’s hope it gets here in two weeks!


Hand Tools

Of course, I use all of the typical clay tools. Wire to cut clay. Ribs to compress and smooth out clay. Plenty of wood slabs to keep slabs flat. And honestly, I have inherited way too many bats.

But by far my favorite tools are the ones below. This is what I use to carve images in the clay. The loop and the DiamondCore Stylus are my preferred tools. Especially the Stylus – I am able to get a lot more details and it never dulls!



Tile Color Samples

I’ll be the first to admit I resisted making tile samples when I started out. It felt like additional work that took away from what I really enjoyed – carving new images.

But after a few times of me blending colors that didn’t work together on large pieces that took hours to create, I became very pro-sample tiles. Funny how that works.

I now have an assortment of tiles that show a variety of underglazes blended together. This has saved me hours and allowed me to spend more time on images rather than color options.




A few years back I created a couple of wood molds. Mainly because I could, but also because I wanted to carve an impression of the tree of life on one. And I wanted the clay imprint to feel like a wood imprint.

This mold I am using for some of the work I am producing for the upcoming Emerging Artists exhibition. I like these molds because they allow me to create work that bow from the wall.

Watch me turn these molds on a lathe –>



You can explore the work of Teresa Mandala at
and on
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