Trevor Craggs

contemporary art & sculpture

Ceramic Sculpture Firing Techniques

The Ancient Art of Japanese Naked Raku

I create an abstract torso in rough clay. It is stained then burnished (rubbed all over with a gem stone). This creates a marble smooth finish before allowing the sculpture to dry prior to bisque firing. After removing the cooled sculpture from the kiln a layer of china clay is applied followed by coat of glaze. The second firing takes place in a Japanese style Raku kiln. The temperature is taken to 1000 degrees turning clay to ceramic. While still hot, its carefully removed from the kiln with tongs causing a rapid temperature drop splitting the outer glaze. It is then quenched in wood shavings, which immediately ignite. Smoke penetrates to the burnished surface through the protective now distressed layer of china clay. When cold the china clay and glaze are removed. A final polish reveals the unique marbled finish.

Smoke Fired Ceramic

I create the torso in rough clay, which I then burnish (smoothed with a gem stone) to give a polished surface. The work is then fired to turn the clay to ceramic. The next stage is to smoke the piece. This is done by digging a pit and packing a combination of wood shavings, sawdust, seaweed, reeds etc around the sculpture. The pit is then set alight and covered to slowly smoulder overnight. The different materials burn at different temperatures and subtle smoke colours infuse into the ceramic giving amazing patterns and hues. Natural bees wax completes these unique sculptures.

Re-assembled Bodies

My work is based on the human form, gesture and body language being central to my observations. The unique form is built up in solid terracotta then hollowed out and burnished smooth by hand with a gemstone. It is then kiln fired. Using a powerful gas flame the sculpture is heated until it splits. Only then can it be taken apart resembling an archaeological find. Each piece is individually colour fired with a combination of ancient glazes including Chun style Japanese. After which the sculpture is then glued back into one piece to give this unique inspiring form.

Crystalline glazed figures

Crystalline glazes instantly capture the eye. They dazzle and excite, they are very seductive. It is believed they were first made in the Orient during the Sung Dynasty 960 / 1279. Crystalline glazed ceramic objects enjoyed a brief period of popularity in Europe during the Art Nouveau period. But this had all but dissapeared by WW1. This was due to high production costs, major difficulty producing the colours and impossibly unpredictable results. To this day no large scale manufacturer has been able to successfully produce crystalline glazed work. After many many months experimenting I've discovered the crytical combination of glaze minerals, temperature and firing times capable of growing crystals in glaze, produceing some truely unique results.