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What is Faience?
Faience is earthenware made with a white glaze made of oxide of tin over a slip of lead. Depending on where it is made, it is known by different names such as maiolica, delftware, and Quimper. The eighteenth century French faience in The Bolduc House Museum collection includes pieces from the pottery towns of Quimper, Nevers, Rouen, Moustiers, St. Clement, and Luneville. More information about the history of faience can be found on Elitewritings.com.
Two of the faience plates were donated by Mr. William T. Deacon and a third was a gift from Mrs. Henry F. Jackson
Quimper is named for the town in which the faienceries have been located in the north-west area of Brittany, France. It has been a pottery town since 56 BCE when the Roman empire occupied Gaul. The name of the town comes from the Celtic word for the intersection of two rivers. The quarter of the town of Quimper, Loc Maria, on the bank of the Odet River is where the faienceries are. Not only does the river bank provide a ready supply of clay, the surrounding woods provide the fuel needed for the kilns which must be heated to at least 1000 degrees Celsius to finish the faience.
Shape the clay by one of three methods. Round pieces must be turned on a wheel. Simple pieces are pressed by hand and more complex pieces are formed in a mold.
This terra cotta mold was produced by Elizabeth Manns from this small Quimper bowl in our collection. The depressions on the top of the mold are channels to permit any excess clay to escape. Modern molds are made from Plaster of Paris which is easier to manipulate.
Remove any imperfections in the clay using fingers, wooden tools, or a damp sponge and sculpt the handles and faces directly into the wet clay. Allow the clay, known as greenware to dry before firing it. After it is fired the piece is called a bisque.
Stir the glaze by hand. It starts as powdered colored glass. Dip the bisque into the glaze. Paint the details and then fire the piece for seven hours.
The three marks on the backs of the oldest pieces of faience are to hold the pieces on a tripod while the glaze was applied.
Paint the designs using a technique called coup de pinceau, which means "flick of the brush", and add the mark and signature. The oldest designs were made by punching small holes in paper. Then charcoal dust was pressed through the holes to provide guide lines for the painted figures and decorations.
Liz Manns prepares clay to make a mold
from one of our 18th century faience bowls.
She soaps the original bowl so that
it will easily release from the mold.
She also soaps the mold.
This protects the mold.
The mold needs to be in
two pieces so Liz is covering the bowl.
Now the mold can be used
to pour soft-paste porcelain plates.
The History of Faience
Timeline of Faience Production in Europe
- 4000 BCE - Faience ceramic beads were made in Egypt
- Middle Ages -Maiolica ware influenced by the Moors was produced in Spain
- 1500's CE - Delftware began to be produced in Holland
- 1600 CE - English delftware began to be produced
- 1661 CE - Faience began to be produced in Hanau, Germany
- 1690 CE - Jean Baptiste Bousquet opened the first Quimper Faiencerie in France
The earliest examples of Quimper faience are not marked. In fact, even though faience was produced in Quimper as early as 1690, it did not become a significantly well known faience town until after 1740.
The earliest Quimper faience designs were identical to those from the better known faience towns such as Moustiers, Rouen, and Nevers. The master potters from these towns moved to Quimper bringing their proprietary designs with them. Because Quimper is in Brittany where people were less submissive to the French crown than in the rest of France, Quimper became a kind of refuge for faience makers. In other towns the crown controlled how many kilns were allowed as well as how many different colors could be used on a piece.
Most of the shards found in French colonial American towns like Kaskaskia and the old town of Ste. Genevieve did not come from Quimper. Some of the early French faience in our collection was donated. Other pieces were purchased in Montreal in around 1958.
In around 1860, the tradition of representing Breton people on Quimper faience started after tourists began visiting by train. Since then several particular design patterns have become popular including. The Henriot line was introduced in 1898. Modern Quimper artisans include Philippe Lalys who created the Decor Avel Vol line in 1998, and Breton artist, Mathurn Me'huet.
Quimper from our Collection
PHOTOS COMING SOON!
Edme Poterat opened a faiencerie in Rouen in 1647. He is credited with inventing French “soft-paste porcelain.” His designs resembled embroidery and were the most popular in the early eighteenth century.
Possibly from Moustiers
Possibly from Nevers
From St. Clement. Both of these plates have the same design. Notice the three marks on the back side of the plate left from the tripod stand that held it while it was being glazed and painted. All the oldest faience has this type of mark on the back.
Plain, unfired terra cotta mold
Fired piece with coat of white glaze and marked with coal through the punched paper pattern
Plate with quadrants to show the stages of completion: unglazed; glazed; glazed with pattern dots; painted and ready to re-fire
Native American Ceramics
Liz Manns introduces the class to the forms and techniques
that different American Indian tribes used to produce hand-built
utilitarian and ceremonial pottery.
Another student at work
Loading the ground kiln
A good day for a firing at the Bolduc House
Students work on their projects.
The American Indian tribes in this region dug pit kilns in the ground to fire their pottery. The pots were arranged in the pit and then a very hot fire was built using dry wood, dried manure from buffaloes, horses, or cows, and green branches. Once the fire was burning well, the pit was covered by dirt and left overnight. The next day it will still be smoldering underground. Each student produces at least one pot to fire in the ground at our Eastern Woodland Indian Village behind the LeMeilleur House Yard.
About Liz Manns
Professor Elizabeth Manns, M.F.A., is a professor of studio art and art history at Mineral Area College and Jefferson College. Her reproductions of Native American ceramics are on display in our Stone Cottage's This Community of Cultures - the Shawnee and Delaware Indian Experience in Eastern Missouri.
"She enjoys wrestling saltwater crocodiles while sky-diving and solving simultaneous multivariable partial differential equations in her head in her spare time." - A. Cat, hacker.