Sunday, 17 January 2016

Plate - 14th century Sultanabad

I've been rather quiet these last three months as I've been moving across the country and am still finding my feet in this new city. I have now found a place to rent and my furniture gets delivered in three days! I am enjoying finding all sorts of new things but last weekend I thought I'd try something new and old at the same time. I had passed through a homewares and overpriced duct collectors shop and found the sales lady painting white plates with some sort of commercial poly-paint. I've seen this stuff before, you paint it on, put the item in the oven and ta da - customized item. Unfortunately, the paint doesn't really stand up to wear and tear, the Stormhold Baronial plates haven't really withstood knives, forks and hand washing by people not told about their special needs. This is why I prefer to glaze my plates rather than buy the ceramic paint from spotlight. True, this restricts me in size, shape and I need people to fire it for me but the end product is much more durable. I've decided that finishing the A&S 50 challenge was enjolyable but I'm not done with the ceramic painting yet. So, I need to find someone in my new city who can supply the bisque and fire the finished products for me. Or make arrangements to get the my bisque to Melbourne for firing and collection by a friend.

So last weekend, off I went to All Fired Up in Joondalup. I've mentioned this place on my 'where to make your own ceramics' list for a while now so I thought it was the perfect first candidate for a replacement ceramics facilitator (i only have two candidates). So I saved a number of reference images from the Met Museum on my iPhone and off I rode (image 1). I arrived at noon, spent half an hour browsing their limited stock of bisque before settling down to another project. When I went I had no real plan in mind as I wasn't sure what sort of bisque range they'd have (small). I was there until closing (5pm) and finished the front of a plate and made an attempt at the back.

The blackwork outlines complete. I was tempted to finish here because the grey and white looked so lovely and balanced just by themselves but I knew it'd fire to black and throw the look off.

The blue is complete. Note the solid look of the blue over the black. The original used transparent glazes in blue and turquoise of the Saltanabad style. This is really hard to replicate using opaque glazes so I aimed for a wash and hoped the fired results would be satisfactory.
Finished! Well balanced and really happy with the front.

 The center of the design - surprisingly balanced for a free hand experiment.

Replicate or create original designs?
This is always a question I ask myself when creating something new. Should I replicate an original extant item I'm really taken with, or should I use design elements from a specific time/place and design my own items? I think every SCA artisan asks themselves this same question and I believe the answer comes down to, will the item be fit for purpose? SCA items seem to fit into two categories, 1) cheap make do items for a single or short term use or 2) expensive or hand made items design to hopefully last an SCA lifetime. The items in the second group are not used on a daily basis and are often expected to last for years beyond their more often used modern counterparts. For many people in the SCA, a ceramic item that is fit for use must look medieval. For some people this means old, worn or clearly handmade (see previous rants), others want ceramic items that fit their game, either referencing their personas storyline or featuring their heraldry. The final group of SCA users want items that completely replicate medieval items.

I feel that I make items that generally fit into five categories.
a) appropriation, the grotesques are an example of this. I copied images from manuscripts into a new medium. They are the least medieval ceramic thing I've made (let's not count the escher plate).
b) adaption, I count my early household plates in this category. The elements came from a number of related sources but the combination was created to meet a specific need.
c) insertion, Into this category I fit the Gabs & Stanzi plates. The design and a majority of the plate were period replicas with small elements of heraldric symbols to craft something appropriate for the leaders of my other household.
d) replication, I have replicated the designs on many of my A&S items straight from the originals adapting them only slightly so they'd fit on the bisque available. This Sultanabad item is one such item.
e) creation, the items I'm often most proud of, the Dr Suess bowl and plate fit into this category. These items are inspired by their medieval counterpart but the design is very much original.

Extant reference - Bowl, Il-Khanid, Iran, Sultanabad. 14th century. Freer Slacker, S1997.129.

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