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What is Sgraffito?

Student work from past Sgraffito and Granito workshops taught by Bill Adair.
Student work from past Sgraffito and Granito workshops taught by Bill Adair.

Sgraffito & Granito Workshop
Friday, November 13, 2015

Next month, master gilder and frame historian Bill Adair is opening up his Gold Leaf Studios for a special Art League workshop. The technique he’ll be teaching is one that’s not familiar to many modern artists, though it’s been around for hundreds of years.

sgraffito: (Italian) scratched away

Sgraffito is used to refer to any technique where a surface is scratched to reveal what’s underneath. Ceramics artists may recognize it as a surface decoration technique. In framing, it dates back to the Renaissance, which is when this frame, now at Gold Leaf Studios, was made:

Sgraffito stars

See those gold stars against the blue? That’s sgraffito. First, the frame is gilded (covered with gold leaf). Then, it’s painted over with tempera paint — in this case, blue. When the paint is dry enough, it’s scratched away with a tool to reveal the gold again. Watch how in this video (the scratching starts at about 2:30):

And what about the other part of the workshop, the granito?

granito: (Italian) grained, made grainy

Another traditional frame decoration technique from Italy, granito is all about creating texture, using punches, stamps, and other tools. You can read more about both these techniques in this article by Bill Adair in Picture Framing Magazine.

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