Tiffany Scull | Inspired by the beauty and complexity of the natural world

Tiffany Scull
The natural world is a source of inspiration for many artists. Its' beauty and complexity acting as starting points for investigations across many different mediums. Tiffany Scull exploits the qualities of clay and the firing process to bring her closely observed delicate drawings of the natural world to life.

We ask Tiffany about her making processes and inspiration for her work.

Contemporary Ceramics Centre:  How do you work? 

Tiffany Scull:
All of my pieces start life as a detailed drawing and I enjoy spending time researching and sketching themes for new designs. I am inspired endlessly by the beauty and complexity of the natural world. I’m also fascinated by the interaction which takes place between animals and their environment and trying to capture that moment in time.

When creating my first sketches for a new design it’s very important I have placed each bird or insect within its correct habitat. This is relatively easy when using English birds for example but when I choose to use tropical or rare birds it can be very difficult to find out the exact trees they inhabit. This has led to me contacting places around the world where they are involved in bird conservation. I have found people to be very generous with their time answering my questions on which trees or flowers exist where that specific bird lives.

Tiffany Scull | Reed Warble Drawing
My pieces are thrown with each design in mind and these are left until leather hard, turned, manipulated and then slipped. Once they have been slipped I start to draw out the design and begin the process of removing all the unwanted colour between my drawings. Once I have finished carving I add extra slip colours, blending and layering which is done whilst studying a photo trying to capture how the colours on the real animal look. The intricate details are drawn on using handmade tools at the final stage. I’m only able to work on one piece at a time as once I start to draw in and carve out my design the clay has already started to dry out. The time scale between pieces varies greatly and some of my larger forms can take over 100 hours to decorate.

When I first started to use sgraffito as a decorative process I had a compulsion the fill every available space with little leaves flowers or spirals leaving no breathing space for the actual design. As time moved on I became much bolder with my designs and opened them up so they now have space around them. I instinctively know how much gap to leave between my drawings and in fact the empty spaces between have become just as important as the decoration.

I like to start very early in the morning as I find I’m at my most creative and I have a strict routine that I stick to getting up around 5am 6 days a week. Once I have started one of my sgraffito pieces I work on this first and then if I have any drawing or design work to do I fit this in around my clay work.

Tiffany Scull | Drying Red Admirals and Hollyhocks
CCC: What has been a seminal/inspirational moment?

TS: Creating my first small dish with sgraffito on was a life-changing moment and I still have this on display in my studio. I had played with slips at art college but had never drawn onto the surface, choosing to create very abstracted designs. I have always loved drawing and once I started to transfer this onto my clay work the two halves of my creative world joined and I have never looked back.

CCC: What is your favourite pot or artwork?

TS: I guess if I had to narrow it down, I would choose a glassmaker and two painters. Rene Lalique’s Art Nouveau glasswork,  I think is just so beautiful and the combination of the natural world and pattern I find so fantastic. I absolutely love Gustav Klimt for his delicate use of colour and the combination of abstract and realistic painting. My list wouldn’t be complete without the female Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch for her stunning still life oils of flowers which just seem to have a life of their own.

CCC: What role does the potter have in society?

TS: I feel the potter’s role within society today is just as important and much more diverse. Clay is now being used to create so many amazing art forms from the practical to the wonderful to the thought-provoking.

Tiffany Scull | Angelfish and Weed Form

CCC:  How has your practice changed over time?

TS: I began my career as a ceramicist throwing pieces you could use in a practical way such as mugs dishes and bowl’s decorated with simple brushed on slips.

Over the years as my work has developed it has moved towards creating forms which in themselves serve no physical purpose other than for people to enjoy looking at and living with. I started to completely close the tops of my vessels a few years ago creating a closed-form allowing my designs to really flow around the clay body, also only the main themes on each piece are glazed leaving a lovely tension between the matt and shiny surface so they are very delicate. I am now really painting with my slips blending and overlapping colours to create a watercolour effect which I find very exciting and this is something I have been working towards for many years. I treat my clay decoration as if it was a painting focused purely at the final stages on how the colours and designs look. I have also begun to carve into the clay body a lot deeper giving all of my decoration a very 3D feel. This has recently led onto developing a new series of sculptural pieces with more intricate carving and coloured backgrounds which are at the early testing stages.

Tiffany Scull | Goldfish
CCC: How does working with clay influence your life beyond the workshop?

TS: My clay work influences my life as a whole. My days off and holidays are only taken at times when I have a good break in my workflow and can leave the studio. When I’m not in the studio I am always thinking about my work, what I’m making at the moment gallery works, commission’s future shows and my ideas and excitement for pressing forward to creating new and evolved pieces. I think as anyone who works with clay knows it helps to have a very understanding partner.


  1. Hiya tiffy...excellent blog!..its all there...well impressed with your talents. .and sensebilities.


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