Saturday, January 4, 2014

Watching paint dry........

So... how is your china? Oh, still in soak? Well it should be ok by now, let's have a look. Yes the dirt has drifted off the break, just give it a gentle rub with an old toothbrush and then leave it to dry on a towel. No, don't wipe it, leave it to air dry. How long for? Well, I usually leave it for up to a week, that way I know it will be dry, and you see how the water has soaked in the break line on that earthenware piece? Well, that has to dry before you can re glue the piece otherwise you will lock in the water and it probably won't stick.

Oh you can't get that stain out? then we need to mix up a solution of Peroxide and Ammonia, just a few drops of ammonia, be careful not to get it on you, then take strips of cotton wool in tweezers and dip it in and then lay it across the break, leave for about 20 minutes and then remove it, make sure to rinse the plate well to stop the process, then leave it to dry for a week or so.

Well, what shall we talk about now? How long does it take to restore a piece?, can be 6 months to a year depending what's in the studio, yes, I know it seems a long time, but there are other things going on as well and I could have up to a dozen pieces on the go.

That's the first step, if you like, in the long process of repairing a damaged item. So we will come back to that at some point in the future, by the end of it you will all be beavering away repairing your own pieces, and I will have taught you all via my blog! I did teach this at an Adult Education Centre and really enjoyed it, I had almost 30 students - not all at once I hasten to add, but I had a steady class of stalwarts and continued this for almost 10 years.  One class was taught at a centre not far from Gatwick airport, and the other two classes were held in the village of Lingfield. I know that some of them still get together once a week to work on china, it was a very social thing, my oldest student was 90 and an absolute sweetheart, Martin was always very dapper in his dress, cravat, sweater and jacket and an absolute Gentleman. I have to admit that I really loved the Lingfield classes, for no other reason than we would all take it in turns to go to the local bakery for the mid morning coffee snack and they would all sit and work away and chat about the daily goings on.

I, on the other hand, never got time to sit down.

From the time the first person walked through the door and said,"I was working on this piece the other day........", that would be it. My time was spent sorting out their queries and walking around the room checking on what they were doing, they would insist I stopped for coffee otherwise I didn't get it.  I was once told that my epitaph would be, "it needs a bit more filling.......", as that was what I normally said.

When the husband retired, I said he could come with me. He was always surprised when I said how tired I was at the end of the day, and what was I doing? I couldn't be that busy, I obviously wasn't using the time wisely.

I soon put paid to that notion when he came to the lesson and said, oh, I didn't realize that you were that busy! Yes, I am. He would sit quietly working on some china that we had at home of our own with a view to repairing it and chatting to the others. One day, he was despatched to the local newsagents store for packets of Smarties. Discussion had taken place on the fact that the orange coloured Smarties tasted of Orange, there was some dissent from this, so hence the husband's errand, a pack for each person and then we all opened them and started the great Taste Test. Yes, there was a definite orange flavour.

It was with this group that I took them on a trip to Stoke on Trent. I always felt, and still do, that to understand how to repair it, you need to know how to make it. I used to love going to Stoke, or rather the five towns, Stoke, Hanley, Fenton, Longton and Burslem. So much history was in those towns although, even then, the Pottery industry was pretty much dead and buried.

One of my favourite places was the Gladstone Pottery Museum. An original pottery with bottle kilns, a paint shop and it was here I learnt about a saggar makers bottom knocker. Saggars are clay containers that they would pack the china in to fire in the kiln, they would then be carried into the kiln and stacked carefully until the kiln was full. The most important job in the pottery was the fireman, he had to know when the kiln reached temperature and the timing of the firing etc., a lot rode on his shoulders. I used to try and imagine what Stoke must have looked like at the turn of the 19th century and in the 20's and 30's, there was virtually a kiln in the back garden of some houses as there were some very small family potteries, which didn't survive, but it must have been such hard work competing with the bigger factories.

It should also be remembered that the paints contained lead so death from lead poisoning want unusual, just a hazard of the job. I met somebody who used to work at the Minton factory, and we were talking about the paints and colours. There was a particular blue that was used by Minton's, and he said to me, "It were a lovely blue, but it killed a lot of people". (As an aside, now that production has moved to the far east, one wonders about the working conditions in these factories in the present day, are they any better than they were in the UK in the early 20th century? After all, we are berated for buying clothes from certain stores which use labour in India, and then suffer because of bad work practices such as the collapse of buildings etc,etc,. I'm afraid it won't stop me buying Joe clothing though).

I thought you might like to see some of the work I did, not too bad even if I do say so. I was thought to be quite talented, but I am one of those annoying people who can see things in their head and how it should look, so I am never satisfied!

Capo di Monte figure, one half of his eyeglass was missing, so I made it and replaced it.

This was another project I could really get my teeth into! Jobs like this always made it worthwhile, You can see what is missing from the first photo, and what I had to work with from the second.

The poor horse was legless!

Photos slightly out of order but you get the idea.

Gouda Pottery, a real favourite to restore, this is a candle holder and shows the repair started around the centre and on one of the smoke outlets

The start of the painting!

Well, I think you are all doing very well and we will continue this lesson. Once the ceramic has dried, we will look at the different adhesives and how to approach the re glueing of the object.... that is, if you haven't fallen asleep...............