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Paradise Bird

About perseverance while learning the art of cobalt paint.

When I started my project "Lamps," after creating a few plays, I wanted to create something unique. I came out with a bold proposal to my teacher and asked him to prepare a draft of the so-called pattern for me. I knew Mustard seed would be demanding, but I was consumed by curiosity about how it would turn out and what a lamp with such a pattern would look like.

He Refused.

Well, I took it with peace because I knew it wasn't that she didn't want to do it for me.

It was at the time when I was studying the cobalt painting underglaze very intensively. I learned the secrets from A to Z.


A – prepare the cobalt

I got to work, and it turned out that the process itself took ... 3 weeks! First, I rubbed the powder paint with a special mortar - a few days for several dozen minutes. Then I waited two weeks to go back to grinding and learning to prepare colors of different saturation according to my Master's recipe.

Oryginalne chińskie skorupy były dla mnie wzorem do naśladowania.
The original Chinese shells were a role model for me.

Only when I had well-prepared paints could I learn to recognize Chinese brushes created just for this painting technique. I had mastered the proper hold of the brush over a year earlier, during 21 hours of exercises with Chinese ink. This is such a starter at the beginning of learning in the studio - before you touch the clay, you have to master the brush. If you persevere, you go to clay work. It's kind of like a test of patience, focus, and endurance. All ceramics are based on these skills.

Back then, at the beginning of my journey, I didn't understand this brush. Today I see a lot of sense in it. This is my ace from the sleeve!

It made me feel that I was not wholly green and would be able to master cobalt paint.

Pattern, print, and this unfortunate stain!


Finally, the day came when I had to choose a pattern from my Master's template. It is entitled "Mustard Seed Garden." Mr. Stanisław developed all design concepts. You may ask if it is better to create something of your own. Oh no, the time will come for that! Now is the time of learning, focusing on the technique as much as possible so that you can later use it in your projects and masterfully do them - as they do there in Jingdezhen. These patterns, the so-called mustard seeds, are the base, a simple drawing, a short thought contained in lines on a piece of paper. Students use them to practice, but more on that later.

The next stage is learning how to transfer the pattern to the model through a print correctly. When I learned about this technique, I still use it in almost every job today.

Then it's time for stains. For this, you need entirely different brushes - thick, large, with a thin tip on a bamboo handle. You fill such a brush with paint and bring it out, pressing the brush with your fingers. You have to be careful not to spill too much of it. Both hands are working - one manages the brush, and the other holds the work and manipulates it in a certain way so that the stain is homogeneous and does not runoff. Doing it on convex lamps is not easy. In addition to manual movements, there are a thousand thoughts in the head! The paint cannot runoff, and you cannot return the brush to the same place; you cannot let the color we are running dry. Well, you can "sweat" simultaneously - this is probably the most challenging stage.


I could put about six items to the kiln. I have discussed each of these works with my Master's. There was much unsuccessful work, but there were also many lessons, analyzes, meetings. I can't even count the failed attempts, but I learned a lot from each of them. Today, when I see all these rehearsals in my studio, they say to me: "Be patient!"


At the beginning of my studies, I didn't know where I made mistakes during painting and after painting. Everything is visible only after firing - there was every mistake.

You can see how the line was drawn - with attention? Constant? Relax?

Or maybe quite the opposite? You can see where I lost control, where I got angry. Later, as time went on, I realized when things could go wrong. But for that, it takes practice and a lot of exercises.


The art of underglaze cobalt painting is ruthless. If we make a mistake - any imperfections will be visible after firing out. Of course, I tried to remove the shortcomings with a sponge or sandpaper, but I wasted my time unnecessarily. This technique leaves the author with all his flaws and shows the truth about his stage.


There is time for everyone.


I studied underglaze cobalt painting for two years. I focused on this technique as much as possible. When I felt ready, I returned to my Master, asking if he would prepare a lamp pattern for me now.


He agreed.


I waited two months. One day, Mr. Stanisław took out an old drawing from his ceramic studies in China (about 60 years old) and said it was his project based on the Song dynasty. He never materialized it on any pottery work, and now he would like me to do it. I felt it was a big challenge. So I approached the matter strategically - first more accessible sgraffito, and only then cobalt. I already mastered Sgraffito to perfection, so I had personal success. After that, with cobalt art, I only had one unsuccessful attempt. Another one came out! I named it Bird of Paradise.


Traditionally, I went with the lamps - this one and the cobalt Plum lamp to my studio on Kazimierzowska Street, where I arranged an analysis with Mr. Stanisław. When he saw them, I saw those sparkles in his eyes, and he was pleased. Two days later, he wrote me a comment on Facebook under my work:

Magda's underglaze painting equals the artistic level of the famous Chinese cobalt from the MING dynasty. I wholeheartedly congratulate you”.

It is worth living for such moments. :)



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