Ceramic Illustration

Image-making in ceramics is perhaps older and more established than illustration itself as a discipline. Ceramic decoration has a long and varied history from ancient Greece and China to the folk art traditions of British delftware. Today many artists and illustrators are re-discovering this rich legacy of image-making, which because of its utilitarian form is often overlooked.

Research point
Do some research into artists and illustrators who have used ceramics as a surface for their image-making. You might also want to look at ceramicists who have a strong link with imagemaking in their work. Find contemporary examples as well as exploring older ceramic traditions.
What sort of motifs feature regularly? Could you say there’s a visual language of ceramics?

Otley Pots Alex Sickling 2012 Jar with Rude Words
Grayson Perry (ceramic)

“I think hands-on traditional skills are very important in a visual arts world that is becoming increasingly weightless and slapdash. The digital generation need to have a go at something messy and difficult to remind them you cannot always change the world or build a career at the press of a button.” Grayson Perry 2009

Google images for Contemporary Ceramic Illustration




3 ways tonpaint ceramic




Google images for ceramic illustration


Pinterest boards

Pottery Ethiopia

Ethiopian Jewish Pottery
Ethiopian Falasha Jewish Pottery

Pottery Design

Ethiopia Community Tourism

Ethiopian potters are traditionally women and inherit their skills from their mothers. Typical functional pottery includes desti (pots), insera (water pot), and mitad (injera pan). Many of the items are essential elements of the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony including the jebena(coffee pot), gulcha (stove), and arso (incense burner). Most of the pieces are burnished and finished with a black color although often speckled with brown and reddish hues.

In the south and southwest of Ethiopia potters will often decorate the pots with their fingers or pieces of straw. Decoration usually includes straight lines in v-shapes or horizontal series or a ring of small bumps around the pot. One of the largest pieces made in Ethiopia is the gani (brewing pot) which is used to prepare local beer.

Pottery Making Techniques

Traditional Ethiopian pottery is made from three types of clay collected by hand. The clay is pulverized into a powder and mixed with water to create a flexible paste. Most potters do not use a potter’s wheel but rather a flat, round plate which supports the piece of pottery and also indicates size and shape of the piece. In recent years, some potters have received help from development programs which provide them with pottery wheels and training on modern pottery making techniques. Those working without a wheel build pots using either the spiral coiling technique or a traditional method of moving around the pots.

Once the basic shape is created, the artisans dry the unfired form in the sun. Many potters then burnish their pottery to make the exterior shiny. Burnishing is typically very time consuming and involves rubbing dried (but unfired) pottery with a smooth river stone, piece of bamboo, or leather rag to give the piece a smooth and shiny surface texture. Burnishing was developed before glazes existed to make pottery more waterproof. After burnishing, the artisans fire the pottery in a rudimentary kiln, often only a hole in the ground, where the objects are covered and fired with dry cow dung and hay. Usually potters in the same village will share a firing area that is used only once a week.

Most Ethiopian pottery is either natural clay colored or black. The black color is created by coating the object in oil and then firing it in the kiln. After, the objects are left to cool under a mound of dried eucalyptus leaves giving them a black patina. Although most pottery is unglazed, some potters in the South will waterproof pots by heating them and then pouring cold milk into the pot or using the residue of local beer or coffee to seal it. Alternatively, a small group of potters use a simple resin glaze made from the leaves of the ketketa bush or from the sap of the euphorbia. Occasionally, artisans will paint pottery after it has been fired to add further decoration. Recent efforts have been made to improve Ethiopian pottery and a few cooperatives located near Addis Ababa have successfully worked with women to create high quality pottery products.



Eric Ravillious

Eric William Ravilious (1903 – 1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He grew up in East Sussex. He was educated at Eastbourne School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art (1922–5), where he was taught by Paul Nash and became close friends with Edward Bawden. His watercolour landscapes and rural interiors often featured the downland and coast of southern England; haunting and lyrical, these works show a world in suspense and often feature chalk hill figures, and empty rooms (e.g. Farmhouse Bedroom, 1939; London, V&A). He achieves an amazing feeling of light. In 1939 he became a War Artist, and during World War II he depicted such subjects as De-iceing Aircraft (c. 1942; London, Imp. War Mus.). He died while observing a sea rescue mission.


Apart from a brief experimentation with oils in 1930 – inspired by the works of Johan Zoffany – Ravilious painted almost entirely in watercolour. He was especially inspired by the landscape of the South Downs around Beddingham. He frequently returned to Furlongs, the cottage of Peggy Angus. He said that his time there “altered my whole outlook and way of painting, I think because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious … that I simply had to abandon my tinted drawings”. Some of his works, such as Tea at Furlongs, were painted there.

Ravilious was accepted as a full-time salaried artist by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee in December 1939. He was given the rank of Honorary Captain in the Royal Marines and assigned to the Admiralty. From here he painted some of how most powerful watercolours.


Ravilious engraved more than 400 illustrations and drew over 40 lithographic designs for books and publications during his lifetime. His first commission, in 1926, was to illustrate a novel for Jonathan Cape. He went on to produce work both for large companies such as the Lanston Corporation and smaller, less commercial publishers, such as the Golden Cockerel Press (for whom he illustrated an edition of Twelfth Night), the Curwen Press and the Cresset Press. His woodcut of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket has appeared on the front cover of every edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacksince 1938. His style of wood-engraving was greatly influenced by that of Thomas Bewick. He in turn influenced other wood engravers, such as Gwenda Morgan who also depicted scenes in the South Downs and was commissioned by the Golden Cockerel Press.

In the mid-1930s he took up lithography, making a print of Newhaven Harbour for the “Contemporary Lithographs” scheme, and a set of full-page lithographs, mostly of shop interiors, for a book called High Street, with text by J. M. Richards. Following a trip in a submarine in the war he produced Submarine Dream, a set of 11 lithographs.

Design and ceramics

In February 1936, Ravilious held his second exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery and again it was a success, with 28 out of the 36 paintings shown being sold. This exhibition also led to a commission from Wedgwood to for ceramic designs. His work for them included a commemorative mug to mark the abortive coronation of Edward VIII; the design was revised for the coronation ofGeorge VI.[11] Other popular Ravilious designs included the Alphabet mug of 1937, and the china sets, Afternoon Tea (1938), Travel (1938), and Garden Implements (1939), plus the Boat Race Day cup in 1938. Production of Ravilious’ designs continued into the 1950s, with the coronation mug design being posthumously reworked for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. He also undertook glass designs for Stuart Crystal in 1934, graphic advertisements for London Transport and furniture work for Dunbar Hay in 1936. Ravilious and Bawden were both active in the campaign by the Artists’ International Association to support the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Throughout 1938 and 1939, Ravilious spent time working in Wales, the south of France and at Aldeburgh to prepare works for his third one-man show, which was held at the Arthur Tooth & Sons Gallery in 1939.