'Decoration scratched or inscribed on plaster or potter's clay while still soft, and for beauty of effect depends either solely upon lines thus incised according to design, with the resulting contrast of surfaces; or partly upon such lines and contrast, and partly upon an under-coat of colour revealed by the incisions' - Heywood Sumner.
This excellent decorative technique is found in a variety of interiors of churches and other buildings, and is a way of fairly rapidly covering a large surface with essentially monochrome decoration. It lends itself well to illustrative pictures in the style of a woodcut. It is not surprising, then, to find that artists working in sgraffito such as Burne-Jones, Selwyn Image and Heywood Sumner were often those most expert in woodcut illustrations.
Heywood Sumner was a particularly keen advocate of the sgraffito technique, decorating 11 churches in the style, and writing articles on the subject, including in the influential Art Journal.
The technique was and still is used on the small scale for decorating pottery, and a 19th Century example is the work of pottery decorators such as Hannah Barlow working at Doulton's.
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