Craig Bragdy’s raw material arrives by the ton on a wooden palette and at this stage looks and feels like something children might have played with at school.
But, the clay is about to go through a carefully planned and very demanding process that requires the delicate, skilled hands of artists and high levels of technical precision. By the end, this delivery will have been transformed in to 40 square metres of spectacular and unique swimming pool ceramic.
A consistent quality
Before being laid on the factory floor as a huge single sheet, the clay is pugged and de-aired to make an immaculate working surface, which is consistent in both moisture and shrinkage levels (normally 8 to 12 per cent after firing). The plasticity and longevity of buff coloured clay is best suited to Craig Bragdy’s purposes, though in some circumstances white clay is more appropriate.
The principal artist for the project will map out how the approved pool design will then be transferred on to the clay with complete accuracy. Working quickly while the clay is still malleable, a number of highly skilled crafts people then set about drawing on, carving and modelling the surface.
A team of experts
Vital to the character of the finished work is how the clay is cut. As important as line is to drawing, the complex work of cutting will underpin the form and texture of the finished ceramic. The shape and character of the cut will be determined by the artist in charge of the project, before being carried out by the most experienced artists and craftspeople.
What was a single sheet is now thousands of unique tiles, so the job of numbering and logging each one (prosaic as the task may sound) is crucial. Each one is then sent to be fettled, dried and fired, which will leave the tiles inert and vitrified, so frost-proof after installation and able to withstand incredible weights.
With that, the metamorphosis is complete: the clumpy, damp material that arrived on a fork-lift truck is now beautifully designed, minutely detailed ceramic art on a grand scale.