Mary's Maiolica Arts

Pouncing -- A Historic Pattern Transfer Technique

The traditional way to transfer patterns onto the unfired white glaze is an ancient technique known as pouncing.  Pouncing is where pounce -- loose graphite or charcoal -- is rubbed through a series of small holes punched in a paper pattern to transfer the design to an item to be decorated.

Disadvantage:  Significant amount of time can be required to poke holes in a complex pattern.  Pounce can be smudged.

Advantage:  Patterns are reusable many times.  Transfer of pattern is quick and minimizes  shifting of patterns

Pouncing tools

  • Awl -- The most basic pouncing awl is a simple pin.  A quilt pin has a slightly larger diameter than a sewing pin and usually has a large round plastic head.  For finger comfort, an awl tool can be made by embedding the head of a quilt pin in a coil of polymer clay.  Fire the polymer clay in the oven according to the packaging directions.
  • Bag - Traditionally, pouncing is done using a small bag filled with the pounce or fine powdered graphite or charcoal.  The bag can be made using a finely woven handkerchief or a square of natural fabric.  This type of bag can be very messy.  An alternative is to create a pouncing tool that can be dipped into loose graphite or charcoal before each pattern transfer.  Pad a wooden handled foam craft pouncing sponge with a couple of cotton balls.  Wrap a 6-by-6 inch square of cotton fabric around the foam and cotton balls.  Secure the fabric to the wooden handle using a rubber band.  Store loose graphite or charcoal in an old loose face powder container.
  • Pounce - General's Graphite, Pure Powdered, Artist Quality Item 970PG from the General Pencil Company, Inc. 

Prepare the Pattern

To transfer a pattern using the pouncing technique, first make a photocopy of a the pattern to keep the original pristine.  Trim excess paper from the copy and poke lots and lots of holes into the lines of the pattern.  When poking holes, it is helpful if the pattern is laid on top of a firm pillow.

Transfer the Pattern

Align the pattern on top of the piece that is to be decorated.  Hold the pattern down firmly.  Take the pouncing tool and dip it into a little loose graphite or charcoal.  Rub loose graphite over the pattern using circular motions.  Check the transfer by peeking under the edge of the paper while still holding down the pattern.  It is important not to move the pattern until the transfer is complete.  Be careful handling the piece after pattern transfer because the dots of graphite or charcoal are easily smudged.  Gently blow away any excess.  The graphite will disappear during firing.  If there is a problem with the pattern transfer, brush the loose graphite or charcoal away with a soft mop brush and try again.  Use a pencil to lightly touch up the transferred design. 

Please note:  If the piece is still damp the holes on the paper pattern might seal up.

About Carbon Paper

The unfired white glaze is chalky so ceramic carbon paper doesn't always work.  Sometimes instead of a dark line there will only be dents.  Make sure to always use carbon paper specifically labeled for use with ceramic. 

About Pencils

Pencils should be used lightly or sparingly because pencils can leave grooves in the white glaze.  A pencil can be used to mark the center of a plate or bowl; along the rim to mark even divisions; to very lightly sketch a design.

Extra Info:

Pouncing is also used in woodworking and needlework.  I have had no success in making holes using woodworking pouncing wheels as the holes produced weren't large enough. 

Making the pounce tool


Pounce Tools

Poking holes

Reverse side of pattern

Finding the center

Aligning the pattern

Transferring the design

Checking the design transfer

The pounced design

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