~ The Craft of Scagliola ~
The mysterious craft of scagliola-making which flourished across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries is currently enjoying a revival thanks to dedicated craft researchers working in England, Italy and Germany.
Scagliola (with a silent ‘g’ except when affectionately referred to as “scag”) is made from pigmented gypsum.
In other words Plaster of Paris mixed with earth or mineral pigments to produce colour. It is usually mixed by one of many techniques so that it resembles natural marble or granite. The work is then polished to a marble-like finish. It is thought that the craft began as a picture making art form in the early 17th century in northern Italy. Pictorial inlaid table-tops in scagliola are rarely made today, however some wonderfully intricate early examples of tables can be seen in museums and stately homes in England. Then the craft was developed in Germany as a decorative finish in churches, and caught on in England as a way of imitating marble.
By the 18th century scagliola columns were a feature of many important buildings.The traditional labour-intensive manufacture makes scagliola an expensive medium to work in. By the end of the second world war the introduction of mass produced materials, and the economic ravages of the previous two decades has caused the extinction of the craft world-wide.
~ Reviving the Craft ~
The Craft researchers, myself included, have worked since the 1970’s to bring about a revival of the craft, essentially to enable the conservation of the existing 18th century work, but in the process to find new ways to employ the material, which has such a grand and fascinating lineage.
Our work results in valuable pieces of craftsmanship following a tradition rooted in the mists of history.