Friday, May 25

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.


  1. These woodgrain glazes are simply stunning - just magic!! Looking forward to the marble glazing post too, as this looks so glorious!! I am totally confused by the numbering system and the sizing, as it appears to be so different to anything else that I know.
    P.S. Thank you so much, as this is a really informative, beautifully written fantastic site, with excellent photos! Thanks Ev

  2. Hi Ev
    Thanks so much! The mahogany woodgrain glazes glaze is amazing - it would have taken a real craftsman's care to produce.
    The numbering system is perplexing. One or two of the letter suffixes I'm still am not clear on but we have a letter from Cam Brown himself (1997) where he describes the basic outline of the system and the retailers he was producing for.
    Also, some of the suffix letters stand for the type of article, such as A for ashtray and WV for wall vase etc. so there was not much in the way of an all-embracing system as there was at Crown Lynn.
    I could post the letter on the blog if you're interested?

    1. That would be very generous of you to post the letter on here!!
      It may help to understand the system that they used a little more.....
      Do the woodgrain glazed vases have a texture feel to them?
      As a potter I can't for the life of me work out how this look was achieved, but I'd like to find out ;)

    2. Hi Eve
      I have put up a new post where you can read the letter. Hope it helps answer some of your questions! It will probably raise a few new ones too :o)

      The Woodgrain glaze is not textured. It is very smooth, like highly polished oiled wood. I think a lot of work would have gone into decorating these vases. The lines must have been painted on, then very delicately brushed across the grain to replicate the slight running together of the year rings, as you find with some hard woods like mahogany. You would need to start with a very smooth bisque surface.

  3. Hello, I've just come to this blog from the NZ Pottery website (and added you to my china/pottery favourites). Thought I could shed some light on the way the wood-grain was probably executed. I lived on a narrowboat in England for awhile and learnt a lot about the decorative techniques that were used on the colourful working boats that plied the canals. These techniques had filtered down from early/mid 19th century fashionable domestic decoration. We called the oak-graining 'scumbling' and it was used to emulate wood over painted interior cladding. A special comb - different for each timber - was used to mark the pattern in a wet varnish, darker than the under-lying base colour. It did require skill and familiarity with the timber to achieve a realistic effect, but I saw plenty of quite passable layman's examples. These mahogany 'scumbled' pieces are certainly convincing. Working on curved pots must have been a real challenge.

    1. Thank you for this fascinating information. This certainly fills the story out a bit. One can imagine that Teddy Rennie's father was a master "scumbler". I now want to find out was a scumbling comb looks like. It must have been extraordinarily skilled work.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about this.

  4. Glad this was useful. My husband used to have a comb but we got rid of most of our gear when we sold up to come back to NZ. I still have all my books and magazines though so might make time to find a comb to scan/photograph for you. I just had a quick google, and didn't come up with a useful image but I did find a good description and discussion at the link below. Watch out - you might discover that you have a talent for scumbling. Just imagine: a new range of pottery with kawakawa graining :-)

  5. Or burr totara grain... although come to think of it, that might be hard to replicate with a comb. Thanks for the link, and also hopefully for a pic of the instrument that achieved this remarkable glaze effect.