Traditional Ceramic Painting

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Great Ceramic Artists (Part 2):

Harry Davis

Harry Davis was born in Worcester in 1885. His father, Alfred, was a china figure maker who worked for Royal Worcester and his grandfather Josiah Davis was one of the most talented gilders ever to work at the factory. Harry started out at St Peter’s School (where the museum is now housed) then at the age of 13, started work for Royal Worcester. Along with all the young boys he began doing very menial tasks and was formally apprenticed for seven years under the talented landscape artist, Ted Salter, on 3 November 1899.
Harry started work under the wing of his grandfather, who taught him to draw. He also learned an enormous amount from his tutor who taught the eager young boy to paint soft misty landscapes in the style of Corot. Harry was deeply shocked when Salter was killed, cycling over a level crossing, on his way to work in November 1902.
Ted Salter had reinforced Harry’s love of the countryside and of fishing. A keen fisherman, Harry was a follower of Isaac Walton, 17th century author of the most successful angling book of all time, ‘The Compleat Angler’. He perfected the difficult art of painting fish with amazing accuracy, possible only to someone with a deep understanding of fish and their behaviour. Harry was an active member of the Royal Worcester Fishing Club and later in life painted two wonderful trophies for the club to present to competition winners each year.
Harry quickly proved that he had tremendous natural ability and striking individuality. He was always versatile and painted a large range of subjects with ease. Landscapes with sheep, cattle, pigs, fish, snow scenes, London Scenes, polar bears, palaces and gardens, but he was never a ‘Jack of all trades’ he would accept nothing less than perfection in everything he did.

On the 4 July 1910 Harry married ‘Cissie’ (Ethel) Powell, a dressmaker, at St Peter’s church that stood next to the Severn Street factory. A fine watercolour of cattle drinking from a stream, given to the couple as a wedding present by their friend Harry Stinton, is now in the museum collection.
Throughout the First World War there was still demand for Harrys work, but in 1916 he volunteered and joined the wireless section of the Royal Engineers. Harry’s abilities were quickly utilised drawing diagrams for instruction purposes, but he also enjoyed painting postcards which he sent to his friends. On the card showing a mountain of equipment at St.Martin’s Gate Parade Ground (just up the road from the porcelain factory) Harry was obviously tickled by the scene before him and commented:
Not quite clear, But very near, Next year?
In 1919 all Royal Worcester employees who served for their country, including Harry Davis, were presented with an urn with their name, department and dates of service inscribed in gold.
In 1923 Royal Worcester received a prestigious £7,000 order from His Highness Shri Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar. The legendary Sussex and England cricketer owned palaces in both India and England and wanted a service to use in India illustrating his English estate and a set to use in England decorated with scenes of his Indian home. Harry Davis was given the challenge and designed and painted 24 of the most wonderful scenes. He worked from photographs, yet created views full of light and atmosphere with intricate architectural details that were widely admired.
Harry succeeded William Hawkins as foreman of the ‘Men Painters’ department in 1928. He was responsible for training many young apprentices and in the early 1930s to help with his teaching, Harry produced several sets of etchings for decorative plates, 12 castles, 12 cottages and 12 cathedrals. The scenes were expertly etched onto copper plates and then printed as an outline onto the china. Many artists in the department ‘filled in’ the colours over the printed designs adding their signature to the finished work. Sometimes Harry himself did some of the filling in, signing himself H SIVAD, Davis backwards! Later Harry also etched some wonderful coaching subjects and some of his favourite fish.
Joyce Holloway remembers Harry being so patient teaching the girls to paint:
When orders were scarce during the Depressions, and because if you were under 16 you cocouldn't claim the dole, workers were retained and little jobs were found for them. Harry Davis gave painting lessons to girls to fill in the time… he was very patient and he showed me one or two little ways in drawing …and he was a very nice person [his skills] they seemed to me incredible, they still do.
Over the years Harry completed some very prestigious commissions for special customers. In 1928 he collaborated with his friend Harry Stinton to complete an important order for Mr Kellogg the American Cornflake King. Harry Stinton painted a dinner service of 25 service plates with magical snow scenes, with rich raised gilding on a ruby ground, and Harry Davis painted a matching dessert service of 25 smaller plates and 25 coffee cups and saucers with delicate Corot style landscapes.
In 1937 Davis painted some exquisite panels on the silver-gilt casket presented to Charles William Dyson Perrins when he was given the Freedom of the City of Worcester. The following year Harry painted a stunning vase for the Australian cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman to commemorate his three double centuries on the New Road Ground at Worcester and in his book ‘Farewell to Cricket’ The Don wrote
It showed the field of play, the spectators, the lovely trees along the river bank and dominating the whole scene the architectural masterpiece, Worcester Cathedral. This is one of my most treasured possessions.
In 1950 Harry teamed up with his friend Ivor Williams, the Master Gilder, to produce a jardinière to present to Sir Winston Churchill.
Harry’s talents did not end there. He was also responsible for the design of a number of very successful tableware patterns. The most luxurious ‘Imperial’ with its hand tipped raised gold, was produced for an incredible 76 years, between 1917 and 1993 in five different colours. The popular blackberry garland design, ‘Lavinia’ was made from 1940 to 1986, gold and silver ‘Chantilly’ made from 1958 and 1990 and the ‘Worcester Hop’ pattern, adapted by Harry in 1965 from a Flight & Barr original remained in production for 20 years.
During the years of the Second World War Harry was kept busy painting fine bone china, limited edition models that were made mainly for the American market, to earn precious dollars for the British economy. Harry painted many of the prototypes for Dorothy Doughty’s series of American Bird models and Doris Lindner’s horses. He was always a favourite of the Royal family and in 1949 he was asked to paint a wonderful model of Princess Elizabeth on her horse, Tommy.
Princess Elizabeth personally asked to see Harry again when she visited Royal Worcester for the bicentenary celebrations in 1951 and in the very first honours list of the Queens reign in 1952, he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his contribution to British craftsmanship and design of new lines that helped the company develop its export business.
In 1954 Ben Simmonds took over as foreman of the Royal Worcester painting department, but Harry continued to paint in his studio at the factory for another 15 years. In 1958, to mark 60 years’ service for Royal Worcester, Managing Director, Joseph Gimson, presented Harry and Ethel with a television set and much to Harry’s amazement and embarrassment he appeared on the television himself in 1968. St John Howell told Harry’s story on the BBC Midlands Today programme. He explained how his first job at the factory was to wash the museum steps and he managed to tip up the bucket and soak everything. He was very proud of the first 10 shillings he earned, not a bit of paper, but a half gold sovereign.
What do you think I did with it? Said Harry
Lost it through a hole in my trousers pocket!

Over a period of four years from 1965 to 1969, Harry took on an apprentice Rick Lewis. Harry took Rick under his wing and shared his talents and artistic secrets in his twilight years.  Finally retiring with failing health in 1969, aged 83 Harry Davis always stated that during his whole time at the factory he had been extremely happy. Harry died in 1970. He was always astonished that anyone should want to collect his work, but Harry’s signature guaranteed the very best quality and today Harry’s name on any piece of porcelain guarantees a high price.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Great Ceramic Artists (Part 1):

The Royal Worcester Stinton story and details for John Stinton jnr, James Stinton and Harry Stinton.
The Worcester Stinton dynasty is renowned for their famous Highland Cattle and Gamebird scenes.
They are probably the best known of all Royal Worcester artists, with members of the family painting at the various Worcester factories for almost one hundred and sixty years.
The best known of these would undoubtedly be Harry Stinton, his father John Stinton junior and his uncle James Stinton, but they were backed up and inspired by several other members of the Stinton family.

The Stinton dynasty started with Henry Stinton who worked at the Grainger factory, which from 1805 became part of the Royal Worcester marque.
He was one of the very first top quality ceramic artists to be employed there, but few records survive from the early days of the Grainger factory and it is only from parish records that we know he worked there at all.
Ceramic artists seldom signed their pieces in those days, so nothing is known about Henry Stinton’s life or his work.
John Stinton snr, was the first major member of the family to appear in the records. He was Henry Stinton’s son and born in 1829.
John Stinton snr, started at the Grainger factory in 1840 aged eleven years and stayed there throughout his long working life, until his retirement in 1895.
John Senior was a consummate landscape and figure artist and by the age of twenty two had become one of the most senior and respected artists in the Grainger workforce.

John was the first of the Stintons to mix oil of cloves with his paints to stop them drying out too quickly. This trick was passed from Stinton to Stinton through the years and many of the Royal Worcester workforce would comment on the smell emanating from their workspace.
John Stinton senior had five sons, three of whom became painters at Royal Worcester factories.
John Stinton Junior was John seniors eldest son, born in 1854 he did not turn to china painting until he was thirty five, when he joined his father at the Grainger factory.
Walter Stinton was born in the late 1860s and was John seniors fourth son. He started at the Grainger factory as a landscape painter where he produced many scenes of New Zealand, copied from other pictures. He later moved to the short lived Locke factory where he became known as a fine painter of game-birds.
He was a skilled painter and may have been the inspiration for his younger brother James’s love of the subject.
When Locke’s closed down in 1905, Walter left the industry altogether to work in Droitwich making windmills.
James Stinton was John seniors youngest son and one of the best known of the Worcester Stinton painters.
Born in 1870 he joined the Grainger factory with his father and brother a short while before they were taken over by the Royal Worcester works in 1902.
Following the take over he moved across to the main Worcester factory where he stayed until his retirement in 1951.

Of John Stinton seniors three children who worked as china painters only one, John junior, had children that also followed them into the industry.
Arthur Stinton was John juniors eldest son, born in 1878 he started at the Grainger factory after it had joined forces with Royal Worcester before moving on to the Locke factory as a flower painter with his uncle Walter. He only stayed there for a short while and never achieved the status of his brother or other family members. He left Locke’s to work as a general decorator in a Brierley Hill glassworks
In 1882, Annie Stinton was born and followed her father and uncles into the Grainger factory before moving over to the Royal Worcester works. She was a general paintress but I am not aware of any work actually signed by her.
In 1882, Kate Stinton was born and is known to have worked as a paintress at the Royal Worcester factory but nothing else is known.
In 1883, Harry Stinton was born. Harry was John juniors youngest son and some might say he is the the best and last.
For four generations, and one hundred and fifty eight years the Stintons were represented at the Worcester factories.
Their work commands high sums and will doubtless be collected and prized by many generations of Worcester porcelain collectors to come.

John Stinton Junior (1854-1956)
John Stinton Junior is best known for his famous Highland cattle scenes but also produced many paintings of English cattle and was a fine painter of British castles which appear over his signature, on many Worcester cabinet plate centres.
There is a well known joke that John Stinton, despite all his skills with Highland cattle, could not paint feet.
It is true that his artworks usually show cattle in long grass or heathers with no visible feet; but then has anyone ever taken a lawnmower into the wild Highland heaths.
The bulk of Johns work was done after the turn of the century when it was usual for the best artists to sign their work.
His work in watercolours is also well known and like many of the porcelain painters of the time John produced private artwork to boost his income during the hard times. Usually of similar subjects to his Worcester porcelain paintings.
Outside the workplace John was a keen gardener, and a very practical man. He kept a heated greenhouse where he grew and cured the pipe tobacco that he smoked constantly.
John stinton Jnr lived to the ripe old age of one hundred and two.
James Stinton (1870-)

James Stinton was the youngest son of John Stinton senior and John juniors youngest brother.
James started with the Grainger factory specialising in game birds on ornamental vases, plate centres and coffee sets.
He moved to the Royal Worcester factory when Graingers was taken over in 1902.
James is well known for his watercolours, mostly of the same subjects he painted on porcelain.
He was a fine painter of pheasants, grouse and other game birds, either in flight or on the ground in their natural setting.
He produced a huge volume of these on everything from large decorative vases to dinner services and tea cups or coffee cans.
John is also well known for his game bird watercolours and both are equally desirable and sought after.
For many years James would paint a plate from the Royal Worcester factory and send it to his brother in America for Christmas and birthdays. His brothers descendants now have a fine and extensive collection.
James Stinton retired from Royal Worcester in 1951 at the age of 81.
Harry Stinton (1883-1968)
Harry was the son of John junior and the nephew of James. He was born in 1883 and he suffered from many childhood illnesses that meant frequent hospital visits and long admissions.

In 1896, Harry began work at the Worcester factory and studied under his father.
He learned to produce the same highland cattle scenes, although he guided his palette more to the purples and autumnal tints to differentiate them from his fathers work.
He appears to have benefited from the experience, as he grew into an imposing figure that many people likened to his father and to the Highland cattle that they both painted.
Harry was a keen fisherman and would spend much of his time with Harry Davis though both he and his father were generally regarded as loners.
A great exhibitor Harry won several medals from the National Art School and went on to become a greatly respected water-colourist.
He won several awards for his pictures; which covered many pastoral scenes of sheep, game-birds and plain landscapes as well as his highland cattle scenes.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Bone China v Porcelain

Bone china is a type of soft-paste porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material, and kaolin. It has been defined as ware with a translucent body containing a minimum of 30% of phosphate derived from animal bone and calculated calcium phosphate. Developed by English potter Josiah Spode, bone china is known for its high levels of whiteness and translucency, and very high mechanical strength and chip resistance. Its high strength allows it to be produced in thinner cross-sections than other types of porcelain.

From its initial development and up to the later part of the twentieth century, bone china was almost exclusively an English product, with production being effectively localised in Stoke-on-Trent. Most major English firms made it, including Mintons, Coalport, Davenport, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Doulton, Hereford Fine China, Wedgwood and Royal Worcester.

The production of bone china is similar to porcelain, except more care is needed because of its lower plasticity and a narrower verification range. The traditional formulation for bone china is about 25% kaolin, 25% Cornish stone and 50% bone ash. The bone ash that is used in bone china is made from cattle bones that have a lower iron content. These bones are crushed before being degelatinised and then calcined at up to 1250°C to produce bone ash. The ash is milled to a fine particle size.  The kaolin component of the body is needed to give the unfired body plasticity which allows articles to be shaped. This mixture is then fired at around 1200°C.  The raw materials for bone china are comparatively expensive, and the production is labor-intensive, which is why bone china maintains a luxury status and high pricing.

Porcelain (also known as china or fine china) is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including clay in the form of kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain arises mainly from the formation of glass and the mineral mullite within the fired body at these high temperatures.

Porcelain derives its present name from the old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) because of its resemblance to the translucent surface of the shell. Porcelain can informally be referred to as "china" or "fine china" in some English-speaking countries, as China was the birthplace of porcelain making. Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, toughness, whiteness, translucency and resonance; and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.

  The most common uses of porcelain are for utilitarian wares and artistic objects. It can be difficult to distinguish between stoneware and porcelain because this depends upon how the terms are defined. A useful working definition of porcelain might include a broad range of ceramic wares, including some that could be classified as a stoneware. Porcelain is used to make household wares, decorative items and objects of fine art amongst other things.



Saturday, 8 November 2014

History of Porcelain Painting

History of China Painting

The art of china painting, referenced in many works as porcelain art or china decoration, has its roots in the history of early China.
It is documented that cave dwellers in Turkey as early as 7000 BC began making bowls, jugs, and utensils out of clay. Egyptians built ovens to harden their clay pieces in 5000 BC. However, over glazing was not discovered until around 3000 BC and decoration of the clay ware came much later. It wasn’t until the T’ang Dynasty in 618 AD that the Chinese began making what is known today as hard porcelain. They discovered that combinations of kaolin clay and feldspar resulted in the most beautiful ceramics.
This porcelain ware is distinguished from other ceramics by possessing excellent qualities of hardness, translucency, and whiteness of body or paste. Any ceramic piece that possesses all of these qualities may be classified as porcelain, and, from a practical point of view, the more it excels under these characteristics, the better the specimen of porcelain it is. The Chinese, being supreme secret keepers, remained the masters and sole producers of hard-bodied porcelain until the middle of the 1700s.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ceramic Painting - A General Introduction

Ceramic Painting - A General Introduction

The term "Porcelain Painting" or, as it is also called, "China Painting", usually refers to the method of painting on white glazed porcelain objects. The paint used is an onglaze (overglaze) paint. This means it is designed to be used on top of already glazed porcelain or bone china (as opposed to underglazes, which are generally painted on the green ware and fired, after which a glaze is applied).

The general method porcelain painter’s use is to paint a light coat of paint on the porcelain or bone china piece. This may involve one or more colours, after which the piece is fired. Then layers of paint are applied and the piece is fired again. This continues, painting and firing, until the artist feels the painting is complete. The reasons for multiple layers, (called "fires" because of the firing operation between each) is to build up the colour as there a possibility that the paint may blister or "pop" if too much paint is applied at once and different pigments need to be fired at different temperatures.

Porcelain Painting has a smoothness, permanency and translucence. It is not meant to be an opaque paint. It is ideal to portray the smoothness of the human skin, the delicacy of the human eye, and hair and animal fur can be made to appear very realistic. 

There are always risks and errors can easily be made, colours and brush strokes must be as accurate as possible.  One mistake many first-time china painters make is to think that they can correct a wrong stroke in a later fire. China Paint has a semi-transparent appearance. Strokes, even if covered by other strokes after the firing, are still visible. Corrections can usually be made before the layer has been fired, but once the layer has been fired, unless the covering paint is very much darker than the layer below, the earlier painting will show through. This means that, unlike oils or acrylics, you must plan your light areas, colours, details ahead of time.  Visualise the finished piece continuously and work back one step at a time.


China Paints are a dry powder and are mixed with oils and glycerine. There are other special powders and oils for special paint projects, such as enamelling and raised paste for gold. 

The powdered paints can have a flux in them and if not it can be added. Flux is a fusible substance that causes other substances to melt. Its presence in the paint allows the paint to "melt" into the glazed surface of the porcelain piece during the firing. Since the pigments of China Painting are all mineral, they fuse at different temperatures. The flux is combined in each of the colours in such proportions so that they will melt uniformly when exposed to the fire of the kiln.

Gold, Platinum and lustres, also used in china painting, do not melt into the glaze. They adhere to the top surface of the porcelain. That is why you often see an old plate where the gold rim has rubbed off. It is because it did not fuse into the porcelain. These metallic paints are generally fired at a lower temperature than most regular china paints.

China paints, properly fired will never rub off. They also may be the only thing left should you be unfortunate enough to have a fire consume your home, since the heat of the kiln is usually hotter than that of a home fire.  What a marvellous art investment!

Firing the China Pieces

The complete firing time can take about three or more hours but, because of the intense heat, the kiln should not be opened right after it shuts off. A few hours or overnight (depending on your kiln) are required for the kiln and the piece(s) inside to cool off enough to be removed.

Most China Painting is fired in the temperature range of 600 degrees Celsius to 1000 degrees Celsius

Friday, 31 October 2014

Ceramic / Bone China Painting


Ceramic Painting

The Medium:
Bone China Plaques – Why so unique!
True Bone China/Porcelain plaques have never been produced in great numbers over the centuries. Research shows that these plaques are rare and are highly sought after.
The main reason for this rarity is due to the high loss rate of up to 80% when firing occurs. The rectangular clay plaques first biscuit firing shows little damage. The risk can occur in the consequent biscuit, glost and numerous decorating firings. The firing changes the molecular structure of the clay and stresses occur in the plaque. This then can cause cracking, warping and general weaknesses in the structure.
It takes a great level of knowledge and skill to produce high quality bone china and porcelain paintings using the traditional decorating techniques. Nicola has had the privilege of learning these skills from a true master ceramic painter.

 The Finished Piece:

Nicola’s ceramic paintings can have up to fifteen firings in order to build up and lock in the glaze colours. There is a risk of loss/damage on each of these firing which make this work incredibly uncertain but amazingly fulfilling when you see the finished piece. The deep rich colours are unified and become one with the ceramic body, leaving a long lasting luxurious glossy  finish.
“You could put a piece in the ground for hundreds of years and it will look just the same when someone digs it up,” Nicola says.

 A Dying Art:

Nicola is believed to be one of the only modern day ceramic artist using the true traditional china painting techniques that have been passed down to her from her father Rick Lewis. Rick was the apprentice of the master ceramic painter Harry Davis at Royal Worcester (1965-69), then created his own ceramic Company Hereford Fine China.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Women's China Painting in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Women's China Painting in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries
What started out as a simple ebay purchase of a bowl that held my fascination, soon turned into not only a collecting obsession, but an education in the subect of women and the arts. So what is it, what is the history behind it, and how does it relate to my own family history?

How Does It Fit In With My Family History?

The family history connection is more of a dotted line. I remember seeing similar pieces in my great-grandmother's china cabinet growing up. Unfortunately, most if not all were lost in the fire at her home in 1979. So when I saw this piece staring back at me from the porcelain lost and found on Ebay, ready to be adopted (for a price, of course), it brought back many memories. Years later, when I was cleaning out my mother's house in New York, I found other similar pieces that had been collected by my great aunt Ethel McCrickert Hannan.

What Is It?

Simply put, this is a hand-painted Limoges china bowl from the studio of Julius H. Brauer in Chicago dated ca. 1910. It was the first piece of hand-painted china that I had purchased and it started me on a journey of collecting similar pieces to the point of obsession. I am partial to the poppy pattern since the color scheme in the main rooms of my home is paprika and pale lemon. I am also a big fan of the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th century and this piece is obviously from that era.

How Was It Made?

Beginning in the 1870s, "blank" china pieces were imported from all over Europe, mostly the hard porcelain unique to the Limoges region of France. Art studios had been set up which employed china painting artists to decorate these items later purchased for the home. These bowls, vases, and other items were meticulously decorated by hand - there was no involvement of transfers or mass production. Some pieces were signed and some were left unsigned.

While the Limoges manufacturers had their own in-house studios, most notably Havilland, many blanks were shipped to the United States to be decorated in studios across the Atlantic. It has been said that over 18,000 barrels of Limoge pieces were exported to these shores during the mid to late 19th century alone!

Most of the decorating studios in the United States were located in Chicago - in fact by 1912 there were 49 decorating studios which employed artists working with these blank china pieces. By 1916, the number had jumped to 102. Some of the more famous studios were Pickard, Julius H. Brauer, Whites Art Company, Pitkin & Brooks, and Stouffer.

Who Were These Artists?

Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not many of these studios would employ female artists. Yet some of the most collectible pieces have been executed by women. How did this come to be?

China painting became a very popular pastime beginning in the 1870s and lasting up until World War I when the importation of Limoges blanks was very limited. Just like knitting parties today, women very rarely painted china alone. Groups would gather weekly to work on similar pieces and show off their handiwork. China painting became so popular that even Caroline Scott Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison held such gatherings at the White House.

Blanks could be purchased at fine department stores and studios by these women who probably had enrolled in a local china painting club or society. It was there that they would take painting lessons and progress to completing entire sets of china service.

Did Your Ancestors Paint China?

Unfortunately women artists who painted china and executed some fascinating pieces were considered "amateur" as compared to the "professional" artists of the various studios. Yet the majority of pieces that still exist were more likely painted by an ancestor rather than purchased at a studio. I have several pieces that are signed by women, some including dates, that attest to this particular art movement.

So, right about now, how many of you are getting up to go look at your china cabinets for any hand-painted pieces that could be a connection between you and that female ancestor artist?