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40 years of designing luxury swimming pools

Over the last 40 years, Craig Bragdy Design has become one of the world’s leading specialists in designing, producing and installing the most spectacular ceramic art for luxury swimming pools, spas and wall murals.

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At the heart of the company are three people, Jean, Nick and Shon Powell. Jean, now in her eighties but as imaginative and productive as ever, started the business as a pottery in the 1950s with her husband Rhys. In the 1960s they began experimenting with small tile panels.  This led to a critically acclaimed exhibition followed by a series of commissions for buildings in the UK and Europe. By the 1970s Jean and Rhys had an impressive track record with orders for swimming pool designs and murals arriving from all corners of the world. Two of their four sons, Shon and Nick became involved in the business and soon developed Craig Bragdy into the world-class company that it is today. Central to the success of the company is a team of 80 designers, mural makers, installers and administrators who between them have developed the extraordinary range of skills and abilities needed to produce work of such diversity and quality.

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Each and every swimming pool design, spa or mural is individually designed, inspired by clients’ suggestions or architects’ instructions. At the design studio a team of skilled artists will transfer a design onto a rolled out sheet of clay. However, before detailed work can begin, clay sheets are gridded in squares using chalk lines with main parts of the design mapped out on the surface of the clay by artists who move across it using specially made pads.

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Once this mapping process is complete, work will begin on the clay; drawing on it, modelling and pressing moulds or tools into the surface – creating texture in a planned way to build up designs until the shape and detail is perfect. The decorated swimming pool ceramics are then cut into pieces, with the shapes and the cuts forming an integral part of the design.  This cutting brings character and tempo to the work.

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The materials used in the manufacture of swimming pool designs are fired to high temperatures (in excess of 1200C). They are therefore, very strong, very durable and suitable for underwater and in areas of extreme temperature or climatic change.

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After firing, the tiles are sorted and laid on the factory ready for the next stage of the process – the application of colour. Before glazing can take place, the required group of glazes will be prepared in the glaze room.  All colours will be discussed using the approved swimming pool design scheme as a guide. Samples of any little used or new colour combinations will be manufactured and fired to ensure accuracy.

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There are two main techniques used at Craig Bragdy – spray glazing and brush glazing. Within this the process will require much layering and wiping back to achieve particular effects. Lustres, enamels and precious metals such as gold, platinum and silver are used for fine detailing work towards the end of the process – which are mainly applied by brush.

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This process, by its nature, ensures no two swimming pool designs are the same.

Finally the ceramics are sorted, laid out on the factory floor and measured. Vertical and horizontal tapelines are put onto the face of the ceramics for reference purposes during fixing. The design is also photographed from above. The ceramics are then packed, piece-by-piece, into tailor-made crates using polystyrene and foam rubber to protect them during transit.

Remarkable is the collective ability of the company’s designers, mural makers and installers to transform a client’s unformed ideas into spectacular, stunning works of art.