24 June 2018

China and pottery

My mom loved fine china. At the end of her life, she owned seven sets of dinnerware that would serve eight to fifteen people each. She had plain white, white with silver, white with gold. She had blue Wedgewood, a blue and white onion pattern, and a few pieces of Flow blue to go with them. She had  (and I still have) some beautiful cream-colored Czech flowered ware. And she had a gold glass tea set. She collected teapots, because her favorite social event was to invite 20 or 30 women over for tea, set up individual tables for four throughout her living room, dining room, and family room, and have enough teapots to put a different one on each table. She likewise picked up stray salt shakers in a variety of patterns, and she loved small pitchers and odd sugar-and-creamer sets. And she is the person who started me collecting wall pockets. I now own my collection plus hers, and haven't got enough wall space to show off more than half of them at a time.

Here is a teapot that I bought her for a birthday treat—it's English, and the teapot was pretty much all I could afford, although I planned to get her the creamer and sugar to go with it some year later. That never happened—instead, I inherited the teapot, along with many others of her lovely things.

Although I am thrilled to have her beautiful china, the collection of all kinds of wall pockets started me down the road towards a more earthy collection. I tend to prefer pottery to china, and am enamored specifically of Roseville, and of majolica-ware. Both of those, although exactly my taste, are mostly beyond the scope of my wallet, but I have been fortunate to find some pieces that were selling for less than their worth because of a stray chip or crack, and to find a person who could mend those flaws so that no one but a dealer with an x-ray machine would ever detect them. Mending these pieces detracts from their value, but since I buy them to enjoy, rather than as an investment, I couldn't care less!

My mother picked up this pitcher somewhere, and had it sitting on my father's desk to hold his pencils and pens. When I admired it, Dad said take it, I don't care what holds my pencils, and you like it. Because of its long history holding lead pencils, I have never used it to serve anything, for fear the lead lingered somehow, but I have always loved its decorative, three-D pattern of branches. I don't know its origin, but it has an art nouveau feel—the depiction of the natural world on pottery.

After I painted it, I felt it looked rather plain on the page, so I gave it a background wash. This sketch paper wasn't meant to stand up to that, so it's a bit bloomy and scrubby, but I liked the conceit that the green background was the trees whose bases are depicted on the pitcher.

I probably needed to leave a little more light on the high points and put more dark in the low points to convey that the pattern isn't just painted on, but actually pushes out of the pitcher. But I did accurately capture the shape and the colors. I painted the entire shape in pale cream color first, and then came back with the details. I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this direct painting process!