Monday, June 3

Piha Iron Sands Glaze (possibly)

There has long been something of an orphan pot in this Titian collection. The pot is a standard form V119 (Vase shape number 19), probably from the late 1960s with a glaze that I am not familiar with. It was interesting enough to keep on the back of a shelf. It has a glaze more in keeping with what a 1960s New Zealand studio potter might have striven for, than anything approaching the art glazes Titian Studio is better known for.

Then, a couple of months ago, I received an email from Peter Savoy who is currently doing research for a possible book on Titian. He had found something in the archives at Auckland museum, and kindly sent me images of two pages out of the 2004 Titian Studio Retrospective Exhibition's visitor's book. The two pages had been written by Stephanie Buckle, daughter of Reg Taylor, who was one of the more important post-war English glaze makers employed by both Crown Lynn and Titian. The key piece of information Mrs Buckle imparts, that cause a penny to drop in this house, is that her father conducted experiments in the use of Piha iron sands for Cameron Brown, to achieve glaze effects. Could this pot be evidence for the use of Piha iron sand at Titian?

It certainly has the dark metallic lustre sheen in places than is similar to some of the Peter Stichbury plates I have seen which employ iron sands. For example:

It is very hard to see from these photos, but there are similarities in the flesh.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who knows if this theory might stand up. My sincere gratitude to Peter for providing this information, which suggests there might be a whole other range of Titian glazes out there. I will use more information Peter has found in a later post.

Ev from has sent me a photo of a pot with a glaze that has rutile in it, to compare with this one. The dark blue streaks from the rutile does appear to be similar to the one above.

Note: this is not a Titian shape

Titian's Leather Glaze: Mid-Century ceramic style

Perhaps one of the most stylish Titian Studio glazes was what Cameron Brown call his 'Leather Glaze".

Leather is from the same family of wonderful crackle glazes as the Lace Glaze, which was the subject of an earlier post on this blog. However, achieving the leather effect relies on a slightly different relationship between the two layers of glaze and their relative vitrification properties. In the course of the firing, the top matt black layer cures, hardens and shrinks first, while the white layer underneath remains molten, creating continents drifting apart.

The glaze effect is especially arresting when the kiln spirits bless a pot with roughly even overall jagged patination - the result is an object of art guided by man but determined by nature. 

Titian Leather Glaze Sample
This may be ultimately true for all glazes, but I think more so for these difficult textured crackle-type glazes. For example, Titian's marble or woodgrain finishes demand the sustained attention of a skilled human hand to achieve. Leather and lace-glazed pots would have been consigned to Titian's kiln with little more than a muttered prayer for divine favour.

As can be seen in the picture above, the pots could emerge from the kiln with a wide variety of leather crackle effects, ranging from dense to medium to quite sparse. 

There is sophistication to this glaze, which when applied to one of Titian's classical forms, results in an object of real beauty. So much so, that this glaze has just been revived by one of New Zealand's foremost craft potters, John Parker, who seems to favour a relatively sparse leather, or 'black crawled' crackle effect. Some examples can be found here, herehere and here.

Wednesday, February 13

Marble Glaze

Sorry for the long silence.

This post looks at the marble glaze, another of Titian's excellent range of mid-century art glazes. 'Marble', as with 'woodgrain' was developed by Teddy Rennie, and built on knowledge and techniques passed to him from his father, a decorator of stately homes who trained before the first World War in England. This means that these two glazes are in all probability direct decendants of techniques, passed from artisan to artisan, father to son, developed for the neo-classical interior design schemes of eighteenth century European manor houses. I have not seen comparable examples of either glaze on English or foreign ceramics, making them extraordinary examples of the inventiveness and elegance Titian was capable of.

Within their own context of post-war mid-twentieth century suburban New Zealand bungalows, these vases must have looked exotic and aspirational, but oddly quite compatible with clean, uncluttered modernist interior design aesthtics. In an era of import controls and domestic preference, they would have been the New Zealand venacular equivalent of the neo-neo-classical Wedgewood ceramics that sold so well in 1950s and 60s Britain, filling a demand for elegant eighteenth century design references that softened the increasing architectural minimalism of popular taste.

As with other Titian art glazes, they have passed though an era in which they were viewed as irredeemably kitch, but they represent the charming continuity of a comparatively ancient decorative tradition, repurposed for a culturally Europe-oriented, prosperous New Zealand middle class.

The colour palate range for this glaze is surprisingly extensive. Undoubtedly the 'signature' type is 'grey marble', but rarer examples of other colour patterns can be found. The pot below is a lampbase designed for and retailed by Eunice Chick, who owned a famous early Auckland design shop. I can only describe the colour as a sort of 'pink marble' glaze.

The lampbase has an underglazed incised mark 'W.G.' I don't yet know who this is

'Green Marble' must be one of the rarest varieties. It is simply gorgeous.

Peter Savoy has located a great example of a Titian Black Marble glaze. I think this completes the range for this glaze. Thanks so much Peter!

Saturday, June 9

Titian's Stonehenge and Lascaux caves decoration

The Stonehenge glaze was used extensively in conjunction with a design Cam Brown adapted from prehistoric art found in the Lascaux Caves in France.
Foreground, B116 (Bowl number 16)
To my knowledge Titian only used ONE cave art stencil, which was derived from the image in the following link:
Un-numbered Titian lamp base
These designs are so redolent of the 1960s and it is such a high quality art glaze that I am certain they will be sought after by collectors of New Zealand pottery and mid-century design for years to come.
The above tennis sets are said to have been experimental and therefore un-numbered, according to the antique dealer in Auckland from whom they were bought years ago.

As with any topic, it you write a blog aiming for comprehensive coverage, occasionally you'll strike something that is a little bit controversial - even with Titian pottery!!! At the risk of getting into trouble with some collectors, I'm sticking my neck out here: The thing that needs to be said is that there are quite a lot of vases with cave art decoration sold as Titian, which are not. Even Gail Henry was caught out when she illustrated a vase as Titian, which I think is likely to have been made in Japan in the 1960s. You can find this mistake on page 11 of the colour photography section of her book (between pages 192 and 193 of the main text of her 1999 work). There are often vases from this foreign manufacturer sold as Titian on Trademe. The confusion is understandable because of the similar themes. However, the foreign vases have shapes that Titian didn't produce, along with different brown tones, and an attempt at producing a Stonehenge glaze that does not measure up to the quality of the effect Titian got. I have yet to see a Titian Lascaux pot with a stencil decoration different from those illustrated above.

Titian's Stonehenge Glaze

Another highly successful innovative glaze achieved at Titian was what they called "Stonehenge". It was reportedly Cameron Brown's personal favourite. It looks like coloured, worked and weathered granite.
On the right, PJ101; center, SV202, left PV110
The vase with ram's head corbel handles is numbered and PV110 (Paramount Vase number 10), and works particularly well with this glaze giving a real prehistoric effect.

The genius of the glaze effect is that it produces the optical illusion that it is a textured rough surface, when in fact, it is completely flat. Look closely at the glaze sample photos below and you will find yourself looking at peaks and troughs with shadows cast.
Brown Stonehenge glaze sample
Blue Stonehenge glaze sample
This is an optical illusion - it is actually completely smooth and flat. I don't know how this effect was produced. No doubt there are experienced potters on the web who could explain the chemistry of how this might have been achieved. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them...
The blue Stonehenge is harder to find than the brown, and seems to have been used on only a very limited range of articles, including B115 (Bowl number 15) below.
In semi-profile:

Friday, May 25

Vase lucky number 13

Some shapes saw interesting evolutions and adaptations in design over Titian's life time. One such was the large  V113 (Vase number 13), one of which can be found in the previous post in its guise of a lamp base. However, it can also be found as a normal vase, and even more uncommonly, as a lamp base with all the whistles and bells including a beefed up square base and monumental handles. Below in a line-up of the three forms, all derived from the same basic shape. The smallest is 31 cm tall, and the largest, a mighty 50 cm to the top of the light fitting.
The middle lamp base is done in the stonehenge glaze, with the very well executed profile of the fourteenth century BC Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

Titian's Woodgrain Glaze: Oak & Mahogany

One of the most successful of Titian's art glazes has to have been the wood grain glaze. More specifically, the Mahogany glaze, because they also tried to emulate an Oak wood grain too.
As Gail Henry (page 64) writes: Woodgrain [was] inspired by Teddy Rennie (a mould-maker and decorator employed by Titian) whose father was a decorator of coaches and stately homes in Britain. 
On page 157 Henry continues, Teddy Rennie was an English employee whose background was in commercial art... Teddy specialised in airbrushing and unusual finishes and also in printing.
This glaze gives such a close appearance of highly polished mahogany that it is hard to believe it is a hand-finished ceramic glaze effect. They look like the type of thing you would find in a very palatial house.
Titian Mahogany Glaze sample
 The large urn at the back of the top photo is numbered B109 (Bowl number 9) and is 17 cm tall by 22 cm from handle to handle. It was one of the biggest bowl forms Titian produced.
The urn is unusually well marked. First it has Titian Studio B109 impressed into the mould. It also has a "b" inscribed into the base and it has "A1" painted on under the glaze. I surmise that the "b" represents the name of the glazer of this work, and "A1", means that as far has he was concerned, this was going to be a superior quality piece. And so it is.

The large lamp base is a variation on the vase that was numbered V113, and is 40 cm tall, from base to light fitting.
The Oak glaze is slightly less common than the Mahogany although I do prefer Mahogany.
Titian's Oak glaze sample
It is lighter in colour and as can be seen in the below example, was glazed in a way that suggests the krater form was made of 2 pieces of turned wood that were then joined together.
This vase is numbered B 107-2 (Bowl number 7 size 3). The "2" is, counter-intuitively, actually telling us that this is size three (the largest) of a form that comes in three sizes.
 B107-2 is 22 cm tall; B107-1 is 18 cm tall; B107-0 is 14 cm tall. The middle vase is in the grey marble finish which will be the subject of a later post.