Birds on a Slope, 2016-2018, Shamai Gibsh - Eretz Israel Museum

Birds on a Slope, 2016-2018, Shamai Gibsh

Photo: Hadar Saifan


Stoneware, terra sigillata from clay collected around the world, four oxidation firing and one reduction firing in a saggar gas wood kiln


Shamai Gibsh, b. 1954


Shamai Gibsh’s work “Birds on a Steep Slope”, which describes birds in flight (inspired by Reuven Porat’s book of poetry), seeks to liberate the ceramic material from its functional legacy, providing it with creative and conceptual freedom. The birds, chained by their form and texture, are not intended for use, and have a life of their own. The traditional techniques and methods – the use of a terra sigillata coating and alternative forms of firing – were adapted to promote the fusion of material and idea.

The term terra sigillata is a general term referring to the glossy surface slips of a certain type of fine Roman red pottery ware, which developed around the Mediterranean Basin some 2,000 years ago. Its manufacture involved the creation of a waterproof surface slip out of tiny particles of clay. Later on, despite their limited range of colors, such surface slips were used as a form of artistic ornamentation, until this technique was abandoned in the 3rd century CE.
In my work, the terra sigillata is produced of clay gathered in Israel and elsewhere in the world, and includes a range of warm colors that create a sense of three-dimensional depth – thus reviving and rejuvenating this technique as a rich artistic practice.
The color effects are created by means of reduction firing (reducing the amount of oxygen in the kiln) using wood and gas fuel. Additionally, the process combines the Naked Raku firing, a development of the traditional Japanese Raku firing and its Western/American version, thus creating a cultural dialogue.”


On display at the Rothschild Gallery, Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts & Design, MUZA – Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.