APPLIED TO GREENWARE
The following relief designs can be hand-crafted by removing or adding clay motifs to the surface of greenware (dry clay shapes not yet fired) before firing and glazing. Mass-produced relief designs are created as part of the mold.
• Sgraffito: Designs are incised or scratched into clay—the origin of ‘graffiti’.
• Raised design: Clay is applied to greenware as if decorating a cake.
• Pierced design: Perforations made in greenware before firing to a bisque stage.
APPLIED TO BISQUE OR GLOSTWARE:
Transfers were the first successful mechanization of uniform decorations for dinnerware. Drawings are engraved or etched on a copper plate. The design is printed on tissue paper with oil-based color and rubbed or transferred— on bisque wares and fired. Colors are transferred one at a time.
Lithograph designs are screened in full color onto film-coated paper with china paints. Decals are soaked in water allowing the design to ‘slide’ onto bisque or glost wares.
Skilled workers press each soaked decal in place seamlessly on each shape and hand sponges it to make sure the application is perfect before firing. Paper burns off in the firing.
This is time consuming and requires skilled artists with standards of excellence.
Pigments are mixed with ‘fat oil’ and aniseed for consistency. Some designs require several firings because different colored glazes require different temperatures. Designs may be embellished with enamel colors and/or metallic paints but must be fired again.
SEQUENCE OF GLAZES AND DECORATIONS:
After clay shapes are dry, they’re ‘cooked’ in a kiln, glazed and fired. If decorated with a decal or hand painted pattern, they’re fired again. Clay bodies and glazes must ‘fit’ ’ each clay body. This means shrinkage and firing temperatures for both clay and glaze are compatible.
Unlike earthenware, porcelain, bone china and stoneware are high-fire clays that vitrify in the bisque stage and require glaze only to provide a glassy surface for cutting and avoid stains from food. Although these clays can be dried, glazed, decorated and fired in a single sequence, some factories prefer to first apply and fire a transparent glaze (glost) prior to decorations for easier application of patterns. During a second firing, a hand-painted or decal decoration penetrates through the fired glaze to become very durable.
Glazed and fired dinnerware without decoration are called blanks.
Blanks are marketed as white dinnerware or they are decorated with glazes, decals and/or hand-painted patterns. Labor costs increase each time a clay body is handled for shaping, glazing, decoration and firing which makes complex designs more expensive to produce.
White dinnerware is and should be cheaper because production and labor costs are less. This changes the price; not the quality.
Many couples shopping in the Gift Gallery preferred the simplicity
and versatility of white dinnerware. They were puzzled because
plain white dishes were much less expensive than patterned dishes.
They’d ask, “But are they good?
I’d select different patterns at different prices in their preferred
brand and shape and place the bread and butter plates upside-down
so the bottoms of each plate were identical.
Asking the couple to select the ‘best’ brought quizzical smiles.
They realized quality was identical:
more costly plates are more costly decorated.
Metallics, a final touch:
Because metallic ornamentation has a low melting point and must be fired at a low temperature, it’s applied after all other ornamentation has been fired. Specialists apply metallic edges, bands and borders to circular ceramic shapes placed on a whirler —which they rotate with one hand as they hold a paint brush loaded with metallic pigments steady with their other hand.
As if by magic, the artist, the whirler, the brush, the paint and plates add up to painted bands of perfection! After cooling, these designs require hand-burnishing with agate or other materials to enhance the metallic shine.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
My next post is: DISHES: FROM CUPS TO CASSEROLES