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Mesmerizing Pottery Technique Suddenly Transforms a Drop of Liquid into a Blooming Tree

Ceramic artist Kevin Kowalski creates bold surface designs on clay that transform right in front of your eyes. Using a mesmerizing pottery technique called mocha diffusion, he dots wet clay with an innocuous brown mixture that reacts to the surface in an unexpected way–a single drop suddenly blooms into an organic, tree-like pattern that visually fractures the once-smooth exterior.

Mocha diffusion is the result of a chemical reaction taking place. To begin the process, a thick slip is added to wet clay and then an acid/color mixture (also called “tea”) is applied on top. It's this liquid combination that forms the patterns, which is traditionally made by boiling tobacco leaves and mixing it with water and colorant. If done correctly, the feathering pattern will happen quickly and naturally because the acid eats away a path for the tea to travel through it.

Kowalski sells tumblrs and mugs made using technique in his Etsy shop.

Kowalski documents this fascinating technique through short videos on his Instagram. Here it is in action:

Kevin Kowalski: Instagram | Etsy

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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