Sunday, 30 December 2018

Blue and White ceramics - China

Blue on White ceramics: the reciprocal influence of Chinese porcelain on European and Middle Eastern ceramics - China

Other essays on the history of BoW in IraqEgyptearly Iranlate Iran, Japan, Turkey, Spain, The Netherlands, Italy and England.


Tang Dynasty (7th - 10th century)
Like many countries, some of the earliest examples of cobalt glaze in China are dipped earthenware items (1). This later developed into earthenware covered in white slip and painted with blue designs (2). These items were produced during the Tang Dynasty and may have been inspired by simple figurative bowls imported from Iraq.  From the 9th century China started to develop "Porcelaneous ware" the precursor and bridge between earthenware and porcelain. Similar to earthenware, these items utilise a fine white clay, kaolin, which is an alumina-silicate (3). Fired at higher temperatures, the quartz (silica) fuzes creating the product often known as Mingware. Many glazes aren't stable at the higher temperatures required to create Mingware thus the decoration on the porcelaneous items remained simpler while earthenware items produced at the same time could be coated in a riot of colours like this yellow and blue phoenix headed jug (4) or this blue, green and brown box (5). These green, yellow/brown and blues items are often referred to as sancai-ware and would occasionally feature cobalt glaze (6, 7, 8, 9, 10). The sancai-ware became highly developed, with potters incising their designs to prevent the glazes from running together (11). Alongside the sancai-ware, the potters of the Tang Dynasty start to produced painted items such as this bird bowl (12) setting the stage for the development of the finely painted BoW items associated with China.
(As a side note, the Tang Dynasty also produced lovely earthenware of marbled clay, which I'm quite enamored of (13) )
Item 11 - An incised sancai-ware tray. China, 8th century. The Met Museum item 1994.605.47

Song Dynasty (10th - 13th century)
The Song Dynasty further developed the Sancai style producing complicated green and yellow motifs on incised earthenware such as Ganwa-ware from Mongolia (14) and Cizhou-ware from northern China (15, 16). These items however, do not seem to feature cobalt as the earlier style did. This was likely due to the difficulty of sourcing the cobalt for the glaze at the time.

In addition to lovely plain white porcelaneous objects, the Song Dynasty also produced distinctive items dipped in a light green / celadon glaze (17). Following the seemingly standard path of pottery development, the Chinese potters also experimented with under-glazing such as this light blue example with purple splashes dated to the 13th century (18).

Ming Dynasty (13th - 17th century)

It is generally accepted that the methods of creating porcelain had been well established by the 14th century in China. Porcelain had been endorsed by the Emperor who theoretically controlled all production and the export of porcelain items. The kilns of Jingdezhen produced all the imperial porcelain however there were private kilns creating imitations concurrently. For a good rundown with comparison images check out the Imperial Palace Museum's website here.

The kilns at Jingdezhen produced items both for export and domestic use. To appeal to the export market, the Chinese artists imitated design motifs from a variety of sources. A 1520's jug (20) is the earliest item identified as being deliberately created for export. It features the classic key design around it's rim seen on earlier porcelain items (21) as well as an upside down copy of the Portaguese arms. This plate from 1580-1600 featuring a Portuguese coat of arms for Captain Don Joao de Almeida (22) exemplifies the early attempts at leveraging the export market. The tiny coat of arms featured is framed by plumes and crested by a very awkward attempt at a helmet suggesting the artists had a weak grasp of the subject matter.

Item 21 - Ming-ware made for export featuring an upside down Portuguese coat of arms.

As trade along the silk road flourished and the European market increased, the export designs become significantly more refined and targeted. For example, this bottle made between 1662-1722 is very Persian with it's use of void space and stylised floral geometric patterns (24). The shape is also reminiscent of Iranian bottles popular at the time.. The imitation wasn't one sided, with the European and Middle Eastern ceramic centers creating their own imitations of Ming-ware. For example, these porcelain bowls created in 1600-1620 (25) spawned Iranian fritware copies (26). in the 16th-17th century, Chinese artists appear to have started adopting the Middle Eastern and European penchant for inscriptions in their work (27)

European countries weren't the only market or stylistic influence on the Chinese export trade. number of Ming-ware items also feature Mongolian style cloud designs which are a dominant feature in Turkey's Iznik design style (15th - 17th century) 28293031. It seems that the Mongolian / Persian influence was quite extensive. This jar features archers wearing Persian style garments and is decorated with various vegetable motifs as well as images of European houses (32). This 17th century asymmetric dish shows the Chinese artists were also incorporating Japanese styles into their work (33).

Identifiable Chinese Design elements
The number 8 is considered lucky and linked to prosperity and wealth. This may be the reason why there is a distinct subset of Mingware incorporating 8 lobes of panels around the main decorative element (34353637). The lobes very often feature auspicious symbols like a double gourd, a fan, a drum or a scroll. This subset of Chinese porcelain is occasionally referred to as Kraak after the carrak's of the Portguese traders who brought the goods to Europe. Porcelain is light and significantly stronger than the earthernware available that was available in Europe. This, in addition to it's link to the Chinese emperor, increased it's appeal as a status symbol. A number of renaissance paintings contain a blue and white porcelain bowl or ewer as a background feature. Rarer are those that celebrate the porcelain itself. The bowl featured in Treck Jan Jansz's (38) painting can be identified as Chinese in manufacture due to a combination of it's thinness, the sheen captured by the artist and the decorative lobes in the glazing.

The production and export of porcelain by the Chinese was the most significant factor in perpetuating the blue on white colour scheme as ceramic art became more sophisticated through the Renaissance and the range of colours available increased. Cultures which had well developed ceramic industries either renewed or built thriving local markets for the BoW goods. Chinese Kraak items were imitated by the Dutch (39), the Japanese (40), the Portuguese (41) and the Japanese (42). BY the 17th century, even the Spanish, who had several manufacturing hubs and a number of celebrated artistic trends were producing blue on white items for local consumption.

Item 38 - Detail, Still life with pewter flagon and two ming bowls. Treck Jan Jansz, 1651, National Gallery, NG4562

Additional references:

Valenstein, S.G, 1989. A handbook of Chinese ceramics. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The hats of the landsknecht

This is a simple image reference collection of the various hats featured in Landsknecht woodcuts. No construction methods are proposed but styles types are grouped to align with my 1520's German hat research. I'm not a fan of Pinterest links within links so this is a more direct way of referencing.  The aim is to reduce the trolling through Pinterest and museum archives next time I need a specific fancy hat reference. Each image will only feature the hat detail and a link has been provided to the entire original image. Reference details are provided in the event the hyperlinks break. 

I started this post with an assortment of 30 images but as I was tidying up the references I realised that they fell into three sets. The British Museum has a collection of 50 odd images of Landsknechts block cut by Jost de Negker. There is a goodly number of Daniel Hopfer and then assorted random images. Unfortunately, some of the images aren't high resolution so end up a little pixelated.

This is by no means a complete collection and if you know of a hat I've missed please link to the museum reference in a comment!

1520's German hat Research part 4

Allegory of Virtues and Vices at the Court of Charles V by Hans Daucher 1522 (The Met Museum accession no. 17.190.745)

The previous parts of this research have discussed Tallerbarret's and Split Brim hats, Star fish and upright brim hats, and multiple ideas on constructing the hat crowns. The fourth, and final part, will examine the decorations on the hats featured in The Virtues. This discussion will also examine the art work within the cultural context to ensure this artwork is reflective of wider society and the information can be extrapolated beyond this context. This part of the analysis is important as many allegorical hats (and clothes) are not representative of what was worn at the time, being either a fantasy creation of the artist or an artists impression of 'ancient' clothing. I'm of the opinion in the SCA, that if you can find it and make it, you should wear it.  You should also be aware of its history and context so when asked why you're wearing a beautifully absurd hat, you can explain it's origins and inspire others.

Again, a lengthy and picture heavy post which can be found under the jump cut.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

1520's German hats research part 3

Allegory of Virtues and Vices at the Court of Charles V by Hans Daucher 1522 (The Met Museum accession no. 17.190.745)

In the previous two posts I reviewed the hats of The Virtues with regards to the varied brim construction (split brim and floppy hats). There is significantly less material to work with on this topic as displaying the full crown of a wide brimmed hat often means obscuring the face of the wearer. Working within the limited confines of the The Virtues, I've attempted to propose some constructions methods to achieve the look on display. These are aimed to direct future experiments with cloth to determine how construction and use requirements (function) might dictate form.

The rest of the post is below the cut as it's picture heavy, again.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

1520's German hats research part 2

Allegory of Virtues and Vices at the Court of Charles V by Hans Daucher 1522 (The Met Museum accession no. 17.190.745)

The Allegory of Virtues and Vices at the Court of Charles V features a lovely spectrum of hats from the early 16th century. Tallerbarret and Split Brim hats were discussed in the previous post so this post will look at floppy hats, upright brim and combination hats. I consider floppy, or "Star fish hats" to be distinct from split brim as cuts do not overlap and more slashed than cut and pieced. For this analysis "Split brim star fish hats" will be a combination of both where the splits clearly extend to the crown and overlap in places and are additionally slashed. There are a variety of floppy hat patterns to be found here (beware the poor livejounal formatting) and a good tutorial by Geoneva von Lubeck can be found here

Further analysis is under the jump cut.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

1520's German hats research part 1

Allegory of Virtues and Vices at the Court of Charles V by Hans Daucher 1522 (The Met Museum accession no. 17.190.745)

When delving into a new area it's important to have a few prime images to fixate on otherwise you'll get lost down the rabbit hole. Often people use an image of something they've seen someone else wear and they try to find references to reference it, make it fit a costume or make it more period. In this case, I started by collecting a Pinterest board of Landsknecht, Cranach and general German-ish hats. This gave me a good reference base for the variety of hat types available within my scope. I then narrowed the field by focusing on one item and using it as the basis for my research. If you want to do the same, there's a large collection of hat references collated by Jeanne de Pompadore here. It'd be nice if they're hyperlinked to a primary source but they typically contain sufficient information in the caption to help you find the original without needing to use Google image search.

Personally I found my focus image deep in a Pinterest linked-linked-link. The sculpture by Hans Daucher contains a good number of hat types. As it's a crowd scene, it also has a few back of hats so we can see the crown detail. I've numbered the hats to assist as I discuss the various types and my construction conclusions.

Details are below the jump cut as this the first of three long research posts

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Tyrant productions part 2

So, since I've been making hats recently, I decided Tyr needed one to complete his outfit. As many before me have discovered, accessories like hats take a costume from 'I rolled out of bed' to 'I am Dressed'

Let it never be said that Tyr doesn't like hats (don't believe me? I've got so much photographic proof).

This hat was made in a similar way to the St florian square hat however I used white silk for the lining and didn't cut any shapes out of the wool. He doesn't have a device that'd translate well into cutouts and I was hesitant to ruin a perfectly good hat. We did add a button to the middle because it seemed the right thing to do. Proportionally the button should be bigger (or the hat smaller) but it is what it is.

The hat has had two formats so far. Originally the hat was edged with a galvanized steel embroidery loop size extra extra large. The sort you can buy at Spotlight. This turned out to be a mistake as the edge was too heavy and while it didn't deform while worn, it did try to edge down the wearers head. At festival someone showed Tyr how to tuck under and sew down the edges of the square to make it more of a puff to stop the runaway brim. Very similar to how the St Florian 1 hat ended up. It seemed to work but it still wasn't ideal.

After festival I cut out the embroidery loop and threaded the edge of a witches hat through instead. I had to trim the witches hat wire slightly and crimp it together with some metal tubing. It has significantly reduced the weight of hat however the brim will now pringle if jammed onto a head oddly. Given pringling or maybe drooping appears in some of the documentation, I'm not too worried about that. I've also unpicked the puffing and tacked the corners of the square to the edges of the hat. I think it's a little plain but it looks lovely with the feathers on it. Maybe someday it'll get some slashing, who knows?

Turns out, it's almost impossible to take a selfie of the crown of a hat if its brim has a diameter of 50cm. Though, if you stuff a bike helmet in it, and place it on the floor, the dimensions are about right.

Tyrant productions Part 1

The start of my year was very much caught up in preparations for Rowany Festival. If you are familiar with my projects, you'll know I've been the RF cartographer for 6 (?) years. Ever since I created the job really. It involves a lot of fiddling around with maps and doing my best to please over 800 stakeholders. This year, I was also making garb for Tyr. He needed enough garb for a 6 day event and he's not the sort to schlep around in a basic t-tunic. Oh no. Unfortunately, the only items he had were a couple of shirts I'd acquired at Pennsic and a vest he brought along.

As the shirts were late-period-ish, we had to settle on a wardrobe collection that'd please his sense of flair and wouldn't be too challenging for my sewing skills. We eventually settled on Landsknect, partly because I've been collecting images for hat making, and partly because it has so many options.

I'm not going to go into everything we made, but by the end he had 4 pairs of pants, multiple shirts and a vest. As I've never made fitted pants before, it was quite a learning curve. Tyr also helped out by fray-stopping all the slashed edges. He also sewed some codpieces.

Tyr accidentally in the background... photo by Rachel Vess

I suspect Tyr is really proud of this codpiece. He designed and made it himself. As one of two token American's he didn't really need to advertise but it garnered no end of appreciative smiles. Unfortunately, it was washed in warm water and the red ran so the codpiece is no more.

Friday, 16 November 2018

St Florian hats

St Florian Hat 1 at Rowany Festival. Photo by Rache Vess.

Late last year I made some hats for the upcoming B&B of St Florian. The hats needed to be appropriate to their German garb and tie into the St Florian device which is a purple buttony cross on a white background.

For these hats I used a heavy black wool which was a little too stiff for a coat. Their expect-ellencies supplied me with some purple and white satin material which they were going to use on other aspects of the garb as well. I used halloween witches hats to provide rigidity to the brim.

This project suffers from the same problem my cranach hat did, where black wool is very hard to photograph well so instructions but no step by step photos are below the cut.

How to dino

a) Triceratops trial.

I thought I'd share my process for the geometric dinosaurs I've been playing with this last year. It's quite straightforward if you follow some basic rules:

  1. No curves
  2. No partial terminations.
  3. Triangles must orientate with the direction of texture flow
More ideas below the cut

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Heraldic cups - blowme of Saint Cloud

My new heraldic device is azure (blue), mistral contourney over an  mountain agent (white). I've been playing with the motifs because it's about time I made myself a ceramic cup. My finished ceramics are piling up and waiting for a trip to Victoria to be fired. I really need to complete my bisque stockpile and find a way of indulging in my hobby without the need to fly to Victoria! I took a few liberties with the design and I really hope this improves with firing.

Front, unfired. Back, unfired.

Geometric dinosaur tri-al

I've been neck deep in block printing experiments this last 9 months so please tolerate the upcoming flood of enthusiastic posts.

Spotlight has now started stocking speedball ink and a variety of supplies and ArtRiot had a buy $40, get $40 sale so I now have a goodly stockpile of various things to experiment with. First up is the Speedball Screen Printing Ink. This is sold in a four pack of black, red, blue and yellow at Spotlight for reasonable prices. I also bought white because I like the idea of white block printing then overdying with indigo sometime in the near future.

To test the ink I hand painted another geometric dinosaur. The paint is designed to be pushed through a screen print frame. As a result, it's quite sticky and will need thinning before being used in block printing.

If at first you don't succeed, tri, tri again.

The tricerotops on the left was painted with a flat bruch while the one on the right used a tapered round. The paint was easier to load on the tapered round and i didn't need to go over the lines as much. As a result, the lines are less fluffy. I like the frill on the one on the right, it's a much cleaner head and I'm alot happier with it.

En-raptored with geometrics

An experiment with hand painting geometric dinosaurs. I'm not 100% happy with the feet but the idea is sound and I'd like to apply it to a variety of other dino's.

The pale yellow halo is actually talc powder which I've used to transfer the outline of my design onto a black polo shirt. The method works really well but has the possibility of gumming up the paintbrush if too much powder is free to move. It brushes off easily once the paint is ironed though.

UFO extravaganza

I haven't posted in a long while due to a combination of crazy work hours, limited internet and a phone (camera) that's on the fritz. One major change in the last month is I've been housebound recovering from major organ surgery. As a result, I've had plenty of time to tackle my unfortunate collection UnFinished Objects. I've managed to clear at least one Australia Post tub of items. I'm pretty proud of this spring clean.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Ajanta caves

In December last year I attended a friends wedding in Delhi. I had only 8 days for this trip as I was taking it between FIFO swings. After the wedding, my traveling companions and I headed south to see the Ajanta Caves. Previous blog posts (here  had outlined some of my arm chair research about the cave paintings so it was especially great to go see them in person. I cannot rave enough about this trip or about this UNESCO wonder. I am so in love with this wealth of history and the epic nature of these paintings.

If you want to know about the geology of Ajanta, some tid-bits can be found here. The posts following in the sequence will feature of some of the better photos I took plus a little background on the caves they're found in. I can't say this has been ticked off my 'places to see' list, but I've now seen enough to make the most of my next visit!

Me, thrilled to be seeing all the things!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Product review - Helmar Fray Stoppa

Product: Fray Stoppa
Brand: Helmar
Use: Stop loosely woven fabric from fraying.

Helmar is an Australian company
Easily available from Spotlight.

Does absorb into fabric but some sits on top of the cloth
More of a glue texture, so it creates 'strings' which can be really annoying when working with silk etc.


Thursday, 1 March 2018

Block printing experiments

Last year I was on a secondment to a new team. They're all lovely people and continue to be very supportive of my learning curve. One of the benefits of being part of this team is unrivaled access to spare B bags. B bags are used to house the secondary chip samples from RC drilling. These samples are stored in large barrels in the event that an error occurs at the labrartory when assaying the A sample. Every so often, we make a duplicate sample to validate the lab process. This creates spare B bags. As a result, they are used for all sorts of things, from wiping the mud of vehicles, to temporary sun shades. The B bags are made of calico and sized with a water-resistant starch of some kind.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Some Sancai things I really like

Sancai refers to a glazing tradition from China's Tang dynesty (~600-900 CE) which utilises green, purple and brown glaze. The glaze is lead based laid on white earthenware items. Due to the mobile nature of the glaze, if often has carved borders to assist in retaining the glaze. Some scholars suggest the Chinese dishes influenced the sgraffito work of Europe.
The final image in this post indicates that even when the art forms of glazing was highly refined, the translucent green was utilized despite it's dubious nature.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

UFO - Mr. Men dress upgrade

I've just finished upgrading this UFO. I made this dress from a tennis dress pattern in 2004/5 (specifics are faint). The fabric came from a reclaimed bedsheet and as you can see, I was more concerned with conserving fabric than matching the print.

I love this dress but I had made the hem a little short. Luckily, in my fabric conserving spirit I had made the hem very wide. So, I was able to unpick it and lengthen the dress by a good 10cm. Unfortunately, wear on the hem had left pale lines in the print. I solved that through the application of trim (which probably cost more than the original fabric). The green trim covers the original hem line and the blue covers the fold.

If I had a do-over, I'd pattern match and maybe flare the skirt a bit more. That said, I still have the other bed sheet in the set, I could make another once my UFO stack is  down to a more manageable size. It'll have to wait though, my two UFO complete per one new project is going well and I'm looking forward to tackling some ceramics next.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Yellow bugs in Western Australia

Fuzzy yellow caterpillar photographed around Leederville, Perth.

Cleaning up images my phone and I found this critter - a Trichiocercus sparshalli. This fuzzy caterpillar turns into a white / silver moth. Apparently they can be found across Australia but the eastern states are more likely to have the red sub-species.

A bee drinking goerthite stained water - tiny tongue (proboscis)!

With water in the Pilbara being so scarce, if the local hive finds a readily available source, they all turn up for a drink. I strongly advise capping all drinks and using sippy straws to avoid the bee-in-the-mouth issue.