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Lesson 1 a

Creating Samplers on Tiles

Gael Stirler

The slide show below is a sample of work by Mistress Dairine (Gael Stirler). Click on the "view all images" button to see larger images. You will need Flash 9 to see the slide show.


The Art of Ceramic Painting

Many of the same skills and motifs are used in Majolica painting as scroll painting. Majolica (pronounced MY-yol-ick-a, also spelled "maiolica") is a low fire pottery that has been decorated with a base glaze of opaque white, traditionally made of lead and tin. Colorful borders and motifs are applied on top of this base in a freehanded manner. Designs range from hastily applied dashes and dots to elaborate battle scenes and religious iconography. Maiolica is gaining in popularity in the United States, especially Italian styles with geometric borders, portaits, and fruit designs. There are several Italian companies making Maiolica that can claim an unbroken line of artisans all the way back to the 14th century. Talavera is Spanish style maiolica that is made in Mexico. Talaveran artisans of Puebla, Mexico can trace their artistic lineage to 16th century Spain and from there all the way back to 10th century Persia where the craft was invented to mimic Oriental pottery.

Maiolica appealed to me as an artist and illuminator because many of the designs were similar. After trying it, I was hooked on the freedom it brought to my painting. I enjoy working with the glazes and seeing the amazing change from dull, chalky surfaces to durable, brilliant, beautiful colors. With the help of your local ceramics shop you can make Maiolica safely with lead-free glazes in minimal studio space at home. Here are some examples of my early work in this medium. Here is a gallery of some of my lastest work.

Project 1: Sampler Tile

Before trying to paint a platter it is a good idea to try painting on tiles to get a feel for the art form. It is also a good way to collect samples of all the great border designs that you may paint on plates someday. I have found that some borders just aren't as easy as they look, and others are simple but look hard. Painting samples will help you find the designs that please you most without committing to a whole plate or bowl. If you decide to work on commission, you can use your sample tiles as a catalog of sorts.

Preparing the tile for Maiolica painting

Using commercial greenwear tiles purchased off the rack at a local ceramics shop, clean and touch up the rough spots. Have them fired to a cone 04 bisque, about 1750 degrees Fahrenheit at the ceramic shop. If you like, you can buy bisque tiles for a little more and save yourself a step and some time.

Brush on 3 coats of Duncan Satin Opaque White Glaze, letting the tiles dry between coats. This will form a dense white base for the colors. If you make a small mistake you can carefully scratch off one layer with a calligrahy pen leaving the other layers in tack.
After the glaze is thoroughly dry, draw the straight lines on the dry glaze with a pencil using a ruler to keep the lines straight and even. The graphite burns away completely in the firing stage later. Do not press down hard with the pencil or you will leave dents in the glaze that may be visible later. You can erase pencil lines with a kneaded eraser, but it should be used sparingly. If you erase a large area, reglaze with one fresh coat to replace the one rubbed off by the eraser. Let it dry completely before drawing on it again. You can use a blow dryer to speed up the drying.

The next section is about materials, colors and glazes.

NEXT: Maiolica Lesson 1 part B | Go to Intorduction: Maiolica History

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© 2002-2004Gael Stirler, Inc. 1-520-721-8346
Unless otherwise noted all art is the work of Gael Stirler.
AKA Mistress Dairine mor o' hUigin, OL

This page was last updated Monday, 16-Mar-2009 15:36:19 CDT