The reason for making the giraffe in the first place was a technical one: we wanted to experiment with making large ceramic ‘plates’ in various 3-dimensional forms as opposed to the usual small 1 x 1 cm tesserae. The markings of a giraffe are ideally suited for this purpose. Also a giraffe has an imposing bearing and was certain to make a big impact in our garden!
The giraffe was made and mosaiced by my assistant Bernie Johnson. Martin Cheek made the ceramic plates.
It took a year to make and was completed in November 2007.
The sculptural form was made by cutting a vertical profile of the giraffe, to this were added horizontal profiles along the vertical profile to ‘flesh out’ the form. Over these profiles bamboo canes were added and then the whole thing was cladded with reinforced cardboard. Once the correct shape was achieved the whole giraffe was coated in fibre glass.
The ‘plate’ markings were drawn and number coded on to the giraffe and paper templates made. Clay was rolled out like pastry and cut into the various shapes. These had to be dried out on the form itself so that they dried to the correct contour. Once dry these were then bisque fired and then glaze fired. The plates had to be fired to stoneware so as to make them frost-proof and thus withstand the cold English winter weather.
The plates were then stuck to the giraffe and the spaces between mosaiced with vitreous glass. External epoxy adhesive was used to stick the plates and mosaic tesserae. Finally the finished giraffe was grouted with tile grout.