Small Talk Tag: Pottery

A Tiny Tradition

Teresa Wildflower

In 1994, November was officially proclaimed Native American Heritage Month by the president of the United States. The month is designated to celebrate the rich cultural traditions of the first Americans as well as pay tribute to their sacrifices and contributions throughout American history. As part of the celebration, we’re featuring one of our favorite Native American artist’s work from T/m’s collection.

Chemehuevi artist Theresa Wildflower’s miniature pottery exemplifies some of the rich artistic traditions of the Native Americans of the Southwest. As an accomplished potter, Wildflower created these traditional coil and pinch pottery forms in 1:12 scale. The ornate, hand painted geometric designs are carried over from symbols historically used to transcend inter-tribal language barriers. While her work is contemporary, miniature pottery from Southwest Native American Pueblos dates back for generations.

The Girl Behind the Bonnet

sunbonnet sue images

This nine-piece Sunbonnet Sue Tea Set is one of the most colorfully illustrated children’s tea set in our collection. Who exactly is Sunbonnet Sue? With a face shrouded in mystery (ok, well, a sunbonnet anyway), Sunbonnet Sue was a popular illustration in the late 19th and early 20th century. She appeared on children’s school primers, china, and became a popular quilt block design.

The tea set here was made by Royal Bayreuth in Bavaria around 1905. The Sunbonnet Sue images were applied to the porcelain using a transfer technique and a secondary gold leaf pattern was added on top. Royal Bayreuth still continues to make porcelain today, and many of their antique pieces are highly collectible.

Steeped in History: The Montereau Tea Set

montereau pottery

Tea time, anyone? Children’s toy dishes and tea sets can be found in a variety of materials, from wood and tin to porcelain and plastic. When porcelain became widespread in the 19th century due to technological and scientific advances, factories began producing toy tea sets and doll accessories. Tea sets became especially popular in the mid-to-late 1800s when Queen Victoria popularized “taking tea.”

Due to the lack of documentation, it is often hard to track the origin of these sets. Lucky for us, this child-sized set in T/m’s collection is marked “Montereau” and “LL,” indicating the set originates from a Montereau pottery shop in the Oise region of France. The yellow-glazed earthenware has crisp, black transfer patterns and hand painted rims. We bet a little girl saved this “good china” for a special occasion.

Amazing Glazing

Miniature Talavera pottery

Whether you pronouce it “veys” or “vahz,” you’ve got to admin these 1:12 scale vases are really something. Inspired by the traditional Talavera pottery of Puebla, Mexico, these porcelain works were created by Le Chateau Interiors, a company comprised of miniature artists and painters Frank Hanley and Jeffrey Guéno. Although nearly identical, the two vases were actually made several years apart from each other.

The tradition of making Talavera pottery in Puebla dates back to the 16th century when it was introduced by immigrants from Spain. After being molded and fired in a kiln, these ceramic jars, or tibores, received a white layer of tin oxide glaze called estaño, and then the intricate blue design painted on top. During the final kiln firing, both layers of glaze became fused, giving the vases their smooth finish.

Renaissance Woman

lee ann chellis wessel ceramics

A large portion of Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel’s work focuses on re-creating Renaissance masterpieces in miniature. Like a modern day Renaissance woman, Chellis Wessel not only excels at painting miniature renditions of egg tempera masterworks like this version of Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni, but also Renaissance period maiolica (or majolica or mayólica, depending on where it’s from) ceramics.

Much like her egg tempera work, Chellis Wessel’s miniature maiolica is made using the same process as full-scale pottery. First created in the ancient Middle East, maiolica  is made by covering a clay vessel with a white glaze that has been made opaque by the addition of tin. The white glaze provides a blank canvas for the metallic oxide designs that are layered on top and become fused to the background during the firing process. The results are the same whether in full-scale or fine-scale miniature: a beautiful multicolored piece of pottery.

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