Sunday, 17 July 2011

Plate 5 - a start

Started plate 5 over the weekend.

That is to say, started the front of plate 5.
Originally this plate was to be the prize of the A&S competition for Winterfeast.
So I completed the back (not entirely happy with it but I'll discuss that later) and was going to finish the front the way the winner wanted.

However the winner won with the Annual Winterfeast table decorating competition. Which in this case, was a household effort. So I'm going to make her a 15th cenury platter rather than the 16th c Spanish ones I've done so far. I've been researching alot as 1400-1450 isn't very specific. She's chosen a design and I'll start it once I've finished plate 5.

Since I have no real purpose for this plate, apart from skill development,  I thought I'd pick a simple design to get it out of the way. My pride in my work however won't let me make it too simple (like a brace of artichokes). I really liked the not-kiwi (below) but since it's a small bowl of 19cm I don't think it'll translate too well into a plate. So I went with a rather nice flamingo (or wading bird or ibis) pattern. I like it. I think I'll make a smaller bowl with the not-kiwi on it too.

not-a-kiwi bowl - Muel, Aragon, Spain 1550-1610

Thursday, 7 July 2011

HRM Constanzia Moralez y de Zamora’s Plate

Constanzia’s plate is the third one I’ve ever completed. The most important constraint upon the design was it had to be appropriate for her persona. Preferably, it should also look similar to the one made for Gabriel. I chose for this plate the only other blue on white plate fitting my “16thC, Spanish, Plate” search in Victoria and Albert museum (Figure 1). This dish is slightly simpler than the one made for Gabriel as the original has more solid fill shapes. The original comes from Seville or Valencia between 1550 and 1600. I think a significant part of the appeal of this plate is the llama in the centre. I eventually replaced the Llama with Constanzia’s device which is: Gules, a cross of Staniago, on a chief argent three crescents sable. Goto say, those crescents are a pain to paint. There is no image of the back of this plate in the V&A database.

Figure 1: The original: a tin-glazed earthernware dish with a height of 9.1cm and diameter of 47.3cm from Seville or Valencia between 1550 and 1600. (V&A)

Figure 2 shows the result of my labours. I rather like this plate because I’ve managed to replicate the key features of the original dish (the odd tulip shaped flowers). I think I was more successful balancing heavy features with thin background detail on this plate than I was with Gabriels.

Figure 2: Constanzia’s plate. The third I’ve ever painted.

I deliberately made some of the features not quite as skewed as in the original. There is a splodge visible in the original above the llama’s head which appears to be caused by dripping glaze. I’m lucky that by using three separate coats of glaze, I can avoid the slumping that would occur with a thick, single application. I’ve yet to decide if my lack of stroke marks is a good thing or a bad (Figure 3). I prefer solid fill shapes, however I know I’m not being true to the period example. In this case there appears to be no intentional shading so the lack of stroke marks is negligible.

Figure 3: a) Detail of the original dish showing stroke marks in the glaze and complicated background fill. b) Detail of Stanzi’s plate showing the not-quite fine enough detail.

Instead of the central Llama, I had a choice: I could replicate Constanzia’s charge in blue or I could use her entire device. The first option would be fitting with the period examples (Figure 4) where a majority of devices and figures are in the base colour of the plate. In the end, I decided to use her full device as this plate is ment to be used in the SCA and we have the 2 points of difference rule for a reason.  Due to her chosen colours, the device does stand out significantly but I rather like it.

Figure 4: The central roundel of a plate from Seville crafted between 1525-1550 showing a heraldic charge depicted using the same glaze as the rest of the plate.

As there is no image of the back of the original dish I found an image of a back of a dish of comparable quality and used it as the basis for the back of Stanzi’s plate. Figure 5 shows the rear of a dish made in Manises in the middle of the 16th century. It has many of the common features being leaf/feather decorations around the rim with circular fill as well as circular highlights and a spiderweb type fill in the centre of the base. I took some liberties when copying this design (Figure 6). I made the assumption that the dark lines on the rim are evidence of wear as the leaf design appears to continue under the brown.  I also made some of the line work thicker and didn’t replicate some of the thinner ones. This is partly due to the shape of the bisque ware I’m working with and partly due to the fact fine circles are difficult when you have to go over them three times. I really liked the stippled circles in the middle of the spider web, so I replicated them. I quite like how the leaf border on Constanzia’s plate turned out.

Figure 5: The back of a tin glazed earthenware dish from Manises, mid 16th century. Height 6.1 cm, diameter 40.4 cm.

Figure 6: The back of Constanzia’s plate.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

HRM Gabriel de Beaumont’s Plate

Their majesties were visiting for Winterfeast 2011 for which I was the steward and head cook. I decided to base the event on 1560 because I have a vague memory of that date being on the frocks Constanzia had chosen for this reign. So, wanting to make them appropriate eating wear for the event I made some plates!
First up is Gabriel’s plate. I patterned it off Figure 1. I started by searching Victoria and Albert museum online database of images for “Spanish, 16thc, Plate” and brought up a massive database of images. I wanted to replicate an example of a plate with a heraldic crest in the centre. HRM Gabriel’s device is: Per pale sable and azure, a pair of wings and a bordure argent. A plate fitting with the wings theme would be nice.
I chose the plate in Figure 1 because it was one of the few blue on white examples I could find. It also had interesting elongate blobs that I could convert to wing shapes. The plate was made in either Seville or Valencia between 1525-1550. I rather liked the pomegranates as well, as this is the symbol Constanzia had chosen for her guard to wear.
Figure 1: Reference plate used for Gabriel de Beaumont’s plate.  Made in Seville or Valencia between 1525-1550. (V&A)

Figure 2 is the result of my work. It took in excess of 40 hours to paint and I’m quite happy with how it turned out. Major changes to the plate include switching the elongate blobs for wings and the tone of the blue utilised (unfortunately, this is the darkest blue available to me).  It is only as I write this that I realise that I left out the border argent on his device. Damn. I’m unhappy the plate isn’t as perfect as I wanted.

Figure 2: The front of Gabriel de Beaumont’s plate. The three sections, inner crest, inner circle and outer border, are isolated by solid borders of blue. 

The plate has three sections, inner crest, inner circle and outer border. The inner circle was completed first. Though I was as careful as possible in applying the three layers of glaze, some of the larger shapes, such as the wings and the inner crest are a little patchy. The inner circle and the outer border both have the same background fill, however the inner circle concentrates on floral designs while a majority of the outer border features swirls. Figure 3 shows some of the detail of the inner circle which features pomegranates. You can see at the base of the flower, near the leaves, I couldn’t resist putting in a small ant. A small vanity, it’s the only ant on the plate. Compared to the original (Figure 4), I think the features of the inner circle, i.e. the flower and the pomegranates needed thicker lines to highlight them above the complicated background fill. As I’m still new at this, I’m having trouble balancing the images using line thickness.

Figure 3: Inner circle detail of Gabriel de Beaumont’s plate showing a double pomegranate and flower with floral background fill.

Figure 4: Inner circle detail in the original plate. The application of the glaze isn’t smooth and the pomegranates appear to have been made lumpy as an afterthought.

As can be seen in Figure 5, the back of this plate is very simple. This is mostly because I painted the back first before I had chosen a design. There is no image of the back of Figure 1 in V&A and while I was painting I didn’t have any images of the back of other plates so was working from memory. The design is a very simple leaf design. I have noticed that the more complicated period examples have very complicated backgrounds, while simple plates have simple backgrounds. They all, however, have leaf and floral designs. So, a simple back with a complex front doesn’t represent the medieval standards. I’m afraid I also made my makers mark a little too prominent on this plate.

Figure 5: The back of Gabriel de Beaumont’s plate. A simple leaf pattern decorates the base.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Awesome find!

I found this while researching my next plate!

An illustrated ceramic dictionary with a focus on Majolica.
I'm already inspired.