What is Relief Ceramics?

Relief ceramics, as opposed to ceramic vessels or objects, focuses on the use of ceramic material to produce tiles for architectural application. Tiles may be completely flat or incorporate relief designs - where figures or shapes project from the background.

In architectural application, ceramic tiles have been widely used throughout history, due to their durability, technical properties and visual richness. Relief ceramics constitute one of the oldest forms of decorative art - dating as far back as 4000BC when the ancient Egyptians decorated their houses with ceramic tiles.

As an art medium, relief ceramics offer the artist a vast range of dynamic tile formats, as well as a remarkably vast palette of colours and tonal variation, created through numerous combinations of glazes and pigments.

Programme Outline

Applied Relief Ceramics (Main Subject)

The ceramics studio is based on the same working formula as the mosaic studio. It is a three year, full-time apprenticeship that focuses on Ceramic art, but also includes tuition in Drawing, Ceramic Theory, Art History, Business Skills and Maths.

Apprentices are taught the basic production methods of ceramics while working on actual artworks. These production methods currently include slab production, slip casting which includes the mould making process, and press moulding. An area or particular experimentation is glazing - the studio applies a variety of creative glazing methods to obtain unique glaze surfaces. Apprentices are taught how to mix and apply these glazes.

Relief Ceramic Theory

Planning and organisation

An area of extreme importance is planning and organisation. Creating artworks like our Half Square panels requires a meticulously pre-planned process, and this is probably the biggest difference between the ceramic and mosaic studios. While mosaics involve a creative development during production, a relief ceramic artwork needs to be planned and finished in theory (down to the exact placement and glazing of each tile), before production starts. In most cases each tile is numbered in order to track it through the firing process.

Colour Theory

A thorough understanding of colour is required to accurately interpret a design into a different medium. This module focuses on colour types, basic terminology in colour theory and the behaviour of colour to harness its full potential.

Art History

This module equips apprentices with a sound knowledge of the history of art in a global context, focusing on the development of styles, subject matter and the role of art in society. Teaching instils the confidence and ability to interpret and discuss art theory.


Classical drawing & technical drawing techniques are taught, and through continued practice, apprentices learn to draw with confidence. By sharpening the eye to detail and teaching good hand-eye coordination, overall drawing skills are improved.

Business Skills

The focus of the business skills module is to prepare apprentices to successfully start up and run their own creative enterprises. Topics include small business setup, business strategy, planning, marketing, quoting and basic accounting. Vital Internet and email know-how is also shared to harness the online world for research, marketing and networking.


Mathematics and computer training form part of this module, providing knowledge on basic mathematics, geometry and scaling, and quantification of project needs (e.g. number of ceramic tiles, amount of clay, number of glazes).


The academic year commences in January and is divided into quarters. Applied Relief Ceramics is evaluated on a constant basis, with verbal and written feedback. The remainder of Academy subjects are evaluated during written examinations at the end of each quarter.

Examinations ensure an acceptable level of competence, as well as the necessary level of confidence in verbal and writing skill. An average of 50% is required to pass Academy subjects.
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