Laura Ruprecht’s sgraffito tiles are part of the Animals With Attitude exhibit. Laura will teach this technique in her upcoming class: Sgraffito Slab Tile, April 17 & 18, 6:00-8:30 pm

Register for the class using this link: http://jamestownarts.com/event/sgraffito-slab-tile/

As a student of art history I knew the term sgraffito but Laura Ruprecht is the first Arts Center resident artist to identify this technique in her artwork. Sgraffito has long been used as surface decoration in architecture, paintings and ceramic.

sgraf·fi·to

zɡräˈfētō,skrä-

noun: sgraffito; plural noun: sgraffiti

Sgraffito is a form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting color, often done in plaster or stucco on facades, or in slip on ceramics before firing. Laura uses sgraffito (in Italian “to scratch”) as a pottery decorating technique produced by applying layers of color or colors (underglazes or colored slips) to leather hard pottery and then scratching off parts of the layer(s) to create contrasting images, patterns and texture revealing the clay color underneath. She uses a white clay body for her tile with black slip above, she then carves through the black to reveal the white beneath. This technique creates high-contrast, bold designs. Its similar to carving a linoleum or wood block.

In Europe, sgraffito has been used in architectural surface decoration since classical times, appearing in Italy in 1400 – 1500. It is also found on traditional art, African, Native American and Asian. One only think of southwestern pottery and you probably have encountered some vessels that have been decorated using sgraffito techniques.

During the 1500s, the technique was brought to Germany by the master builders of the Renaissance. There are still a few facades that one can see beautiful examples of this art form. It was particularly popular in Bavaria and Austria.

Painters also have been known to use sgraffito.  One coat of paint is left to dry on a surface. Another coat of a different color is painted on top of the first layer. The artist then scratches out a design, leaving behind an image in the color of the first coat of paint.

Here are few additional images that show how sgraffito has been used.

Karen Gray, Huntsville Canada

Floriańska, Kraków, Poland

The Culture Builds Community blog is submitted (almost) weekly by Sally Jeppson. Sally has worked in the arts for over 30 years. She has an MA in Art History and is responsible for The Arts Center’s exhibits & Art for Life program that provides arts activities to seniors. In her time off, Sally keeps busy exercising, gardening, cooking and riding horses while running a business that works with museums, galleries and organizations to create exhibit materials, artwork and displays.