Big Ceramic Store Blog

How To Use Ribbon Sculpting Tools

The other day, I was using a ribbon tool, and thought about how far tools must have come over the years. I could imagine our ancestors using sticks, stones, bones, teeth, etc... to carve designs into their clay bodies.

If you search the web for clays origin, you will find numerous answers. Some state clay vessels began in Japan around 400BC, others state it was earlier than that. I haven't got a clue who's right, because I certainly wasn't around to confirm it.

Anyway, I was thinking about the options available on the market today, and how easy it is for us to achieve amazing results because of them. From fine lines, to intricate flowers, one type of tool I find invaluable is the ribbon sculpting tool.

In today's post we'll go over some techniques for using ribbon tools. As always, what I show in the post is just the tip of an iceberg, so use your imagination and explore the possibilities!There are other brands of ribbon/sculpting tools out there, but I prefer Xiem and Kemper. Both have various shapes and sizes, but more importantly, they are extremely durable. Besides, the Xiem comes in green, and I love green!

So let's start with the basics. Ribbon tools get their name from the thin, ribbon type, metal used to create the cutting piece of the tool. (For the longest time, I thought it was because the trimmings coming off the pot look like ribbon)

  • Different shapes allow for different effects, especially if you are doing facets
  • The smaller and finer the wire, the finer the line. I often use the smaller ones for creating ridges and lines, on my pots, where I want the glaze to "break."
  • The larger head and thicker wire of the Loop Tool, are generally used for trimming the feet on pots, or cutting away heavier amounts of clay

Now that we've gone over some of the uses, let's see what it looks like.

  • Flat and sculptural work


  • On the wheel


A few things to remember:

  • Your lines WON'T be perfect and that's a good thing... organic is great!
  • The tools get better with practice!
  • The cutting edges on these tools need to be kept after. If they are allowed to dull, your cuts won't be as clean. Diamond Sharpening Burrs are great for this task.

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