Every week there is a planned activity offered by CET. This term the activities have ranged from a pasta cooking class to hiking in the local countryside. The latest activity was painting pottery by learning and using ancient techniques that were developed in Florence and are still used today. We were taught the techniques and skills and then allowed to put our own creative twists on our work. Below are the details of the experience.
We took about a 20 minute walk to the pottery studio from the CET center, and immediately upon entering were surrounded by art. The walls were filled with a mix of pottery, paintings, and sketches. Not only were they fun to admire and look at, but they were also a good source of inspiration for the plates we were about to paint. It seemed like every time I would look at a wall I would discover something new.
The pottery we were using was made of terracotta clay. After an extensive history lesson about the importance of terracotta to Florentines, as well as the evolution of the use of it, we were given a premade plate. We then had to center the plate on a turning stand. This was especially important for the next step, and was also the hardest part of the experience. Every time I thought I had it perfect the instructor would tell me to correct it just a bit more.
Initially we had to divide the plate into a geometric pattern, which was why centering was so important; to get the proportionality correct of the spaces. This was the foundation of the piece. To draw the perfect circles we turned the table the plate was on, making sure to very lightly drag a pencil along the inside. The pencil lines would then burn off in the kiln, allowing just our artwork to be seen.
Once the outlines were drawn we were able to create our own pattern. The plates we were shown as examples had diamond patterns, but I did not really like them so I decided to do a more octagonal pattern. Then I added lines going into the center, which I think gives the plate a certain illusion.
The final part of the sketching process was adding a design in the middle. We used a technique called cartoon where a piece of paper with the design cut out by very small holes was placed over the plate. Then we dusted charcoal over it and the design stayed on the plate. After, you just connect the dots and the design appears.
We then began painting, always ensuring that our arms were held up because if the glaze were to be smudged we would not be able to fix it. Glaze is made up of small pieces of glass, which when heated seals the terracotta making it waterproof, while also allowing the design to be shown.
In this photo students, as well as our chaperone, were working on glazing their pieces as the instructor helped one of the students. All of the surrounding art, as mentioned and seen before, is also present. The overall atmosphere of the studio was very relaxing, and the instructor went around helping us and giving us pointers on our technique.
I choose to paint the Fleur-de-lis of Florence in the center of my plate. Instead of making it all one color, as is tradition, I painted it to look more like a flower. I also made sure to trace all of the lines I had previously drawn.
Once the Fleur-de-lis was complete, I thought my plate was too. Then, I was looking through a book the instructor gave us of inspirations and I saw vines with small leaves and decided to add them to the lines on my plate, which truly completed it.
Due to COVID, the group had to be split in two, so there are just the plates from my session. You can see the influence of the traditional design in each, but also how each person puts their own personal twist, making them unique and special.