Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sgraffito: After and Before

Sgraffito has enhanced buildings and pottery for thousands of years. The word comes from the Italian "graffiare," to scratch, which pretty much explains the technique. A layer of plaster or clay slip is covered with a different colored layer. Scraping or carving down through the layers reveals the colors underneath. Many European buildings were decorated with sgraffito during the Belle Epoque, when skilled labor was cheaper than more permanent ceramic tiles. Time and weather have not been kind to these sibling sgraffito-embellished doorways in Brussels. One has been "rehabilitated," with its colors preserved, but it is not truly restored to its original state. Look closely at its decrepit sister, with the same set of colors used in a different arrangement. You can see the deeply-gouged outlines that are a feature of most Art Nouveau sgraffito. I dream of appliqued quilts or perhaps lovely little pieces of polymer clay jewelry inspired by these designs.