Monday, 7 July 2014

Project 34 - Krae Glas baronial birthday platter PT 1

So this project is going to be both complex and time consuming. It is due mid August for the Krae Glas baronial birthday event, Gionnata de honnor (or whatever it is this year). I started it about a month ago, but accidently knocked my heater over and smashed it (above) . As I'm starting over (and I have a phone, with camera now) I've decided to document all the steps I can...

Extant plate: 1525, Italy. The Met Museum, item no. 41.100.277

(Pre-step - rummage in the Met, V&A, British museum and all other resources to find extant pieces that fit your requirements. Eventually settle on one main design, print sections of this for reference later.)

Step 1: Take some tracing paper and trace around the outside of your dish. The fold this in half and trace the design elements you like onto one half of the sheet. Reverse the fold and trace over your half design. This results in a lovely mirror image. It took me three hours to get the shapes and balance right on the smashed plate. I'm not completly copying the extant piece as I don't like the creepy cherub faces or the random fruits. I wasn't entirely happy with some of the elements on the smashed plate, so I spent another hour tweaking them while doing the tracing (thus the chunkier left dolphin)

Step 2: On the wrong side of the tracing, rub a 6B pencil, as shown in the top half of the above image. Ensure all lines are covered in pencil dust THEN go wash your hands.

Step 3: Lay the tracing paper on the plate, pencil side down. Carefully draw over your original design. When you remove the paper, the pencil rubbings should have transfered your design across. Don't worry about the rubbings, they'll burn off in the kiln.

More steps to come as I complete them, stay tuned....

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ceramic 32 - Janet's Bowl

Item 32 - only 18 more to do, in 10 months!

The finished bowl - on it's side, it sort of looks like her device.
This was created to complete Elizabet's set so I could enter it in the Midwinter Crown-anation A&S competition (tableware). I barely managed to get the bowl fired before delivering it to Sir Wolfram and Mistress Genna to take to Cold-berra for me.

The whole set, the cup is still my favourite piece - the plain white is nicer and the cats better, also, sleeping kitten.


The bowl was inspired by the same design as the plate and the cup. The full documentation submitted to the A&S competition was the subject of my last post.  I'm positing it again because it needs further discussion. From the picture above, you can see that the red on white design is alot sparser than it was on the plate. I was mostly working from images of the other two items rather than the extant piece (I'd lost the bit of paper). This interpretation of the design looks more modern to me. I am quite happy that when viewed on the side (image 1), it does look like her heraldry.

The one problem I have with this item is the fact the glaze has slumped (the sort of blurry drips - below). I didn't know about this when writing up my documentation because I hadn't yet seen the fired bowl. I think the glaze slumped due to two reasons, 1. I initially had three white circle designs on the outside (as on the inside) but it looked to sparse. So I sort of sanded the glaze back a little and re-painted the entire outside. (I'd also rubbed quite a bit of it down accidentally while painting the inside so it needed re-doing anyway). Because I couldn't be sure which areas needed a new covering, the whole thing got coated properly. As a result, there may be areas which received five layers of under-glaze. This, combined with the steep sides, has allowed the overglaze to drip and slump a little. As well, it's still rather pretty and Elizabet has a whole set now (and I've actually completed a set, something I usually avoid). Lesson learned for next time.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Tableware documentation - Ceramics 27, 28 and 32.

I entered Lady Elizabet's ceramics in the Midwinter Crown-o-nation A&S competition for tableware. The following is the 10 pages of documentation I submitted. I've posted about her plate and cup but picked up the bowl only two hours before I had to get it over the other side of the city so Mistress Genna and Sir Wolfram could deliver it to the event. If you've been following this blog you've probably seen quite a bit of this text.

Tableware – Lochac Midwinter A&S competition
Entry & documentation by Antoinette Travaillie – the College of St Monica

What: Lady Elizabet’s ceramic tableware set – plate, cup and bowl (hand glazed commercial bisque)
Where: Manises, Spain
When: 15-16th Century
Motivation: I started this set being inspired by an imaged Lady Alliette linked to facebook of a 1450’s earthenware plate featuring a cat. As Lady Elizabet has a rather lovely device (Figure 1) (and has made me some wonderful silk banners) I decided to recreate the plate for her. Then, obviously, she and Alliette needed mugs with cats on to make them both smile. When I eventually found out about the A&S competition, I thought I’d borrow the items back and enter them, and thank Elizabet for the loan with a matching bowl (also it completes the set).

Figure 1: Lady Elizabet Hunters device as interpreted by Countess Constanzia.

General Technique: Between 15th-16th centuries there were a number of ceramic centres throughout Italy and Spain (eg. Manesis, Deruta). Earthenware plates and bowls would be moulded, fired and then ceramic artists would glaze them typically with tin based glazes. These processes were usually handled by different specialists. (the V&A website has some detailed information related to earthenware production).
For these three items, I have used commercially produced bisque. I have then glazed it with commercial (and modern) glazes. To achieve a solid colour, the under-glaze must have three layers painted on. This takes some time, but is important to prevent thick lines or splotchy colours. Where white decoration is required, it is either left blank or the coloured glaze is scratched back with a wooden skewer to reveal the ceramic underneath. A clear over-glaze is then applied before firing which I get done at a professional service.

Materials:  The bisque I purchase comes in a limited set of shapes. This restricts the items I can do and how closely I can replicate items due to changes in scale or shape. For each of the items presented here, the bisque choice has driven the design selection.
The main difference between my work and that of the workshops in Manises is that I use commercial glazes. These glazes come pre-mixed and are usually a consistent colour. They also contain no toxic substances and due to the over-glazing process result in a product that is dishwasher, microwave and most importantly food safe. Many medieval items utilise a lead based glaze as it can create a higher intensity in colours like red.
The main inspiration for all of these pieces (Figure 2) features background decoration in lustre typical of Manesis at this time. I currently do not have the resources to experiment with lustre and the firing service I use will not accept pieces that have been glazed in products sourced externally. I have substituted standard glazes for this instead.

Documentation (divided by object):
I was initially reluctant to paint this design as the cat itself is too pointy for my taste. Then I realised that the aim of this plate was not to reproduce an extant sample, but to make something in a medieval style for a modern day SCA use. So I adapted it a little to best represent Elizabet’s heraldry.

Figure 2: Dish featuring a Cat. 1400-1450, Spanish, Manises. Tin Glazed Earthernware. 34.6x5.5cm.  Accession number 56.171.115, Metropolitian Museum of Art.

Adaption: In keeping with Elizabets device, I have flipped the cat to sinister and painted the bottom third of the plate in red. I have retained the decorative elements (originally in lustre on the extant piece) and used them to tie the whole plate together. I have also adapted the cat from the pointy, toothy one above to something closer to the interpretation of her device that she likes best. I've retained the long legs but made the cat appear more fluffed up and protective which I think fits Elizabet better.

Figure 3: The finished plate.

Shape: Unlike the plate, there is no generic ceramic cup shape for the time period I was examining. Many people were using glass cups at this time as well. As I had to utilise what bisque was available to me and I didn’t want to have a handle, I purchased the only one available and reverse documented it. Figure 4 and 5 show the barrel shape in both glass and earthenware.
Figure 4: Barrel shaped 16th Century glass beaker, glass, The British Museum, item 1878,1230.268

Figure 5: 1634 - Barrel shape with handle, tin-glazed earthenware, The British Museum, item 1887,0210.117

Decoration: Extant cups were decorated with lustre in a style similar to plates and bowls of the time. I decided to adapt the pattern used on the plate to the cup and keep the top of the cup white. This also allowed me to avoid the warped look of the circular features that would be caused by the slope of the cup sides. I also changed the style of the cat to match Constanzia’s interpretation better as it’s more aesthetically pleasing. I added my own touch to the cups to make Elizabet smile; I painted a sleeping kitten inside the cup that would be revealed when they had finished her tea. 
Figure 6: Cup, Manises, Spain. 1625-1700. Victoria and Albert Museum, item 447-1903

Figure 7: The sleeping cat is revealed...

Shape: Again, there is no generic bowl shape for this time period. Shapes range from stumpy to sloped and footed (Figure 9). My bisque options were flat bowls with wide rims or more rounded, sloped bowls. I chose the second shape as it was more like those I’d seen on various museum sites.

Figure 9: Bowl, 1400 – 1425, Manises, Spain. British Museum item no: G.543

Decoration:  The craftsmen of Manises decorated both the outside and inside of bowls to varying degrees. It appears that the finer the item, the more intricate the decoration. Figures 10 & 11 show the inside and outside of a Spanish bowl with arabic inspired design. According to the listing at V&A for this item “A shipment by a leading Italian exporter of Spanish pottery, ordered from the Valencian potter Asmet Zuleima in 1407, lists 199 pieces of lustre ceramics, including ‘three large bowls, their covers painted out- and in-side’.”. When I was researching these bowls, I was rather pleased to find the bowl shown in Figure 10 as it helps support my choice of decorating 1/3 of Elizabet’s plate.

Figure 10: Inside of Lidded bowl, 1440-1460, Manises, Spain. V&A Museum item 7659:1, 2-1862

Figure 11: Outside of Lidded bowl, 1440-1460, Manises, Spain. V&A Museum item 7659:1, 2-1862

As the bowl is the final item made for this set, I wanted it to tie into the cup and plate but experiment with another way of displaying Elizabets heraldry. Figure 12 shows a typical bowl from Manises displaying lustre decoration and a heraldic device. Rather than paint the full device in the centre of the bowl (difficult with the curved sides), I decided to paint three cats around the edge. I retained the red on white decorative elements for the inside of the bowl and painted the outside with the white on red decoration. This is not entirely true to the use of elements shown by the Manises glazers however it fits well with the other items in the set.

Figure 12: Bowl, Manises, Spain, 1500. V&A museum, item 550-1864

Things learned:
* It is very difficult to paint the inside of the curved cup. Solution: lack works best as you can get away with only two coats minimising the chance of errors.
* Black glaze stains white ceramic and will never cleanly scrape off. Solution: paint a white undercoat or two underneath any black glaze that may need scraping. This prevents the black from soaking into the bisque
* Glaze on the outside of the bowl will come off on your hands (and the table) as you roll it around while painting. Solution: Paint the inside of the bowl first then upend it so it rests on it’s unpainted rim while the outside decoration is completed.
* Three layers of glaze will thicken even the finest of lines. Solution: The trick to balancing this is ensure you use lines of different thicknesses to put the ‘thin’ ones in perspective.

The set.

Project summary 

Because I could.

Materials: Bisque ceramic cups with underglaze decoration

Year:  ~
1450, Manises, Spain.

How historically accurate is it?
The bisque shapes are reasonably close to the parameters of extant pieces. The glazing technique is accurate however the glazes utilised are modern in composition due to safety reasons and other concerns. The three variations of the decorative elements are also quite close to medieval extant items.

Hours to complete: ~

Total cost:
$80 in materials

Satisfaction with finished products: 8/10

Additional resources:
Victoria & Albert museum -
British Museum -

Places to paint ceramics in Australia

Glaze it Studio
328a Glen Eira Rd

All FiredUp
568 Hampton Street

Tea andBisque-it
Shop 3 Sandgate Arcade
Cnr Brighton Rd & Cliff St

Colour MeMine
Shop 4, 29 Holtermann Street
Crows Nest

The PugMill
17a Rose Street,
Mile End
(also a good place to buy home supplies, assuming you have a kiln)

Fired!Ceramic Cafe
29 Winton Rd,

Make yourmark
8/2 Hulme Ct

Friday, 4 July 2014

Item 31 - Peacock cup

I've been playing with cups recently. They make a good, quick, hand-held project and there are far too many op-shop ceramic stemmed goblet things out there in use. This project started with a spare bit of bisque and some research that I'd been doing on cup shapes. When browsing the V&A I stumbled upon a beautiful jug that had a device on it (like Alliette's cup) and a beautiful peacock motif in the background. I didn't have anyone specific in mind for a cup but I wanted to try the motif as I've seen it work on some beautiful plates (below).

Peacock Jug, Cafaggiolo, Italy 1515. Tin glazed earthenware, V&A Museum item 2602-1856
 Plate featuring peacock detail, 1480-1490, Deruta, Italy. V&A. Museum number C.2069-1910

Peacock plate. Tin glazed earthenware 1480 - 1490. Deruta, Italy. V&A Museum, 2606-1856. 

The main motif inspiration came from the jug, particular the angles on the peacock feathers. I used the first plate to help me vary the size of the feathers smoothly. The second plate inspired the blue feather lines. This is the first item I've entirely painted, inside and out. I'm really happy with how warm the yellow looks - it's lovely!

The peacock cup, ceramic item 31. The yellow is much richer in real life. (same yellow and blue as in the Stormhold Fidchel set, just different lighting)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Item 30 - Stormhold Fidchel board

 I decided to make a Fidchell / Fitchell set for my latest project. The idea came from Don Gregory Tortouse one day when he was proudly showing me the recent additions to his games collection. We got into a discussion about games at events and feasts. I quite like the idea of starting a feast earlier and leaving time for people to enjoy gaming and relaxing rather than eating-court-lights on. I started investigating what sorts of games were available and came across a couple of potential boards. I was originally thinking about painting a round board onto a plate, so you could eat and then play. Or play with your food.

Eventually I settled on Fidchel as it was a beautiful square board - perfect for a tile! I don't know how to play this game but it looks reasonably simple (famous last words). As the Stomhold Baronial Investiture / Winterfeast was coming, I decided to give the game a Stomhold feel. I did my best to replicate the details of the original Balinderry board (above) and used Stormholds drakar as the center motif. I'm pretty impressed with how circular my freehand circles are in the yellow decorative bits.

The game was gifted to their Excellencies at their invest / Stormhold Winterfeast. I added some glass tokens (blue and clear) and a castle/king piece. I hope they, or who ever they pass it to, gets many hours of enjoyment out of it.