Mary's Maiolica Arts

Painting with Geometry


Many maiolica designs are made up of repeating geometric motifs.  Evenly dividing a round item is a required basic skill.  A round piece of pottery can be divided in a number of ways.  Other than "eyeballing it", the simplest way to evenly divide a round piece is to:

  1. Turn the ceramic pot upside down and trace the circumference on a piece of paper.
  2. Cut out the tracing and fold the tracing into the number of desired sections. 
  3. Using the folded paper as a guide, mark the sections on the ceramic piece with a pencil.

Generic Template

Another way to divide a round piece of pottery is to create a generic circular template using some basic drafting tools -- a compass, a protractor, a ruler and a pencil.  A circle is made up of 360.  Considering the even divisors of 360, it is useful to create a circular template that has lines at 5 increments.  After using the pouncing technique to transfer the generic pattern grid to a glazed piece of pottery, it is possible to freehand a number of geometric designs.

Geometric graph paper can also be generated for free on the web. Click here to view a compass saved as an Adobe Acrobat file. Check out building your own version at

Using a Generic Template

Two of the most common motifs used in maiolica designs, fish scales and the diaper pattern, can be made using the 5 division lines.  Common maiolica motifs can be personalized with variations in the fill pattern or colors.

Useful Divisions of a Circle

Number of Sections Degrees per Section
4 90
6 60
8 45
9 40
12 30
18 20
36 10
72 5

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