Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Judging Chinas: Workmanship

Once again, a huge thank you to guest blogger Melissa Gaulding!

Things to consider when judging glazed custom chinas in workmanship:

There are many, many wonderful achievements being made by our top finish artists in glazed custom chinas—perhaps too many to go into here, but a high degree of knowledge and control are needed for the artist to produce realism in this medium; these things should be rewarded in workmanship classes. Things listed below denote excellence in glazed custom workmanship (as with items listed above, sloppiness should be judged as it would in any medium).

• Because ceramic molds are plaster of paris, therefore completely rigid, complex poses are very difficult to achieve; some sculptures are cast in pieces and require extensive assembly by hand after casting, making each piece almost an original sculpture. The more complex the mold, the higher degree of difficulty in making a finished horse.

• Because ceramic materials (earthenware, bone china) require both great delicacy of handling plus a lot of handling to complete, thin legs, tiny ears, body/coat texture, and similar refined details are harder to make in ceramic casting.

• Because ceramic underglazes are not remotely the color when applied that they will be when fired, getting consistent results with color, shading, and coat details such as dappling isn’t easy (in glazed customs, orangey or yellow palominos may have occurred due to the chemical changes to the pigments during firing, but an accomplished artist learns to control these things; realistic tone of coat color should be rewarded).

• Realistic details like multi-colored eyes, multi-colored hooves, hair texture, pinto mapping, dappling, haloed appaloosa spots, rabicano roaning, etc. require high levels of artistic skill and control; the more details on a piece (shading, pangare, tail frosting, dappling, even the number of different colors on the horse) the more times the horse has been in the kiln. Each turn in the kiln can negatively affect the final outcome; for example. colors can “burn out” or turn weird shades. So the more colors and details, the more difficult the piece was to finish.

• The smaller the horse or the larger the horse, the more difficult it was to make; there is reason why most china horses are “classic” scale!

• With ceramic horses, it is generally much easier to achieve good biomechanics if the piece is on a base; horses with correct motion/gaits that are not anchored to a base are more difficult to engineer and cast. This is even more true if the piece is bone china rather than earthenware.

• As with production run ceramics (OF chinas), crazing and breaks are not in and of themselves flaws; however, breaks should be expertly repaired and minimally visible. Flaws common in OF chinas should never be seen on glazed customs: overspray, hoof color or eye color flowing out of the natural area, flaws in the clear glaze or frosting in a matte glaze, weird greeny or bluey tones, air brush spatters, etc.

• Claybody custom chinas—horses that are resculpted to a new position before the initial, or bisque, firing—require a level of skill and delicacy (and bravery!) that denotes a high level of artistry; these pieces are basically original sculptures as well as one-of-a-kind colors.

• Some colors are hard to predict in fired finishes—realistic nose pinking and blue eyes require skill and planning on the artist’s part, because the more often these colors are fired, the more likely they are to fade.

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