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Sgraffito pottery: This ancient art form is making a huge come back

The sgraffito art form has been around for centuries, with items used for both aesthetic and pragmatic purposes

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By House & Garden | April 13, 2023 | Art

Sgraffito has been around since classical times, with examples of the technique adorning walls, ceramics, and paintings in grand houses and palaces around the globe from as far back as the sixth century.

From Russian czars, to Italian princes and Byzantine emperors, the technique quickly fell into favour with much of the Western world's royalty thanks to its time-consuming process and how well it lends itself to colour and detail.

The word ‘sgraffito’ literally translates to ‘scratch, write, or mark’ in Italian, so it should be no surprise that the technique involves scratching a motif or image into the clay, often revealing a secondary colour below the surface slip.

However, whilst the pottery's Italian name reveals much about the technique, it also conceals its origins. It is not an art form that heralds from Italy, but Northern Africa.

Coming to Europe by way of Spain thanks to the mass migration from Northern Africa, it's thought that it wasn't until the late seventh century that sgraffito gained notoriety.

The quick spread of sgraffito's popularity is in part due to the Spanish Reconquista. As Spanish Muslims were forced to flee Spain, they brought their culture and art to Italy and Byzantine regions, introducing the technique to much of Europe.

Today, the technique remains popular and coveted, with artists creating objects for everyday use and as high art.

It's not just fine art and ceramics that sgraffito lends itself well to, but everyday items like mugs and serveware too.

We particularly like Hedwig Bollhagen's take on glazed sgraffito, a twist on the traditional technique she champions.

Original article appeared on House & Garden UK