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Bisque Ware History

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in the history of pottery when did bisqueware make its appearance and why? i guess you could call islamic pottery history mostly of bisque fire with a few glaze fired. 

 

today are most japanese traditional style pottery once fired or bisqued and then glaze fired. 

 

 

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bisque firing was developed for tin glaze in the Middle East in what was Persia at the time.

Somewhere between 900 and 1000 AD. It was after a battle where the Persians captured the war goods from China . They had a Proto porcelain piece that inspired the king to have his chemist develop a process that imitated the white surface. Due to the sandy low fired clay in the region, the chemist developed the bisque firing for the tin glaze to fit the bisqued clay. Also another step developed closely after this time Minai enamel ware was made. It was only produced for about 80 years. This required a third firing as did lusterware.I have given two Nceca lectures on this. In Las Vegas,in a panel on Single Firing...mine lecture was "Why Once Is Not Enough" and in Louis ville where Stephani Stephenson and I gave a two part presentation on "Architectural Ceramics from Central Asia to Spain" (me) and "Colonial New Spain to Hollywood" by Stephani.

 

We had a full lecture hall.

Marcia

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It depends on far back you want to go, they have found bisque figurines of women in Mound Villages from 3500 BC.   The theory is that they worshiped women because they produced life (babies).  Part of the worship was to make these figurines and throw them into the fire.  Denice

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Guest JBaymore

Don't confuse the true meaning of the term "bisque" .....with the idea of "low end point temperature/heatwork firing".

 

best,

 

...........john

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Guest JBaymore

Ok but the first use of firing to precede a glaze firing is commonly referred to as a bisque. ANd that cycle began with tin glaze in Persia.

 

Wasn't referring to you, Marcia. :)   Just "in general".  You had it right.

 

best,

 

..............john

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one fires would just be called single fires right?!!!

 

marcia earlier this year i was reading about islamic pottery - persian. it was interesting to me that they commonly found was non glazed ware. only the rich could afford glaze.  there was some reference to minai ware that i didnt look closely into but saw pictures of. 

 

so marcia i understood in persia they managed to get glaze to stay on by using lead and frit (if i understood right) on bisqueware.

 

so is that where it first began and it caught on and we have it today. 

 

i find in countries where ceramics wasnt a major art form - like in india - i visited villages as a child, where they just did one fire. pit fire for mostly water pots and cooking utensils. yet along with that existed modern indian ceramics in urban areas and schools where wares were fired bisqued for glaze fire. 

 

how did bisquefire become a norm in the USA? did the folk potters like the Meader family do single fires or two firings? i watched the documentary a while ago but wasnt paying attention to firings.  i know when we get invited to pit fires here we have to bring bisqueware. 

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Guest JBaymore

Bisque firing in the USA (and other industrialized locations) became highly prevalent because of mass production issues.  It was actually driven by profits.

 

The application of glazes to greenware and "once firing" can and was done historically in folk type potteries in the USA.  Doing so actually makes a LOT of sense.  Only use all the heat energy to get the kiln, furniture, and pots to bisque temps ONCE.  Only handle all the ware and kiln furniture ONCE for stacking and unloading.  Problem was..... green glazing and once firing required skilled labor; potters who were quite good at DOING that stuff.

 

As industrialization came about to meet the needs of the growing masses of people wanting/needing pottery, production techniques had to get stepped up.  Lots of potters were needed.  So the small folk-type potteries with their long study apprentice systems and long training times for developing skilled potters started to morph into small (and then large) ceramics "factories". 

 

These businesses were becoming more truly "businesses"... in the sense of the word meaning profit driven versus product driven.  Eventually many were owned by business people who were not skilled potters themselves, but managerial business people.  No different from manufacturing cars.

 

To hire skilled potters to do the green glazing and once firing work was kinda' expensive (on a relative scale here).  Skill equaled a bigger paycheck.  A bigger paycheck spelled lower profits for the business owners.  So bisque firing allowed the business owners to hire and quickly train lower skilled labor to handle the application of glazes to ware.  Training time was lessened, and the labor pool to DO the job got way bigger.  No longer did they have to pay someone like a "master potter" to do the job.  This also drove heavy job specialization; people ONLY knew how to apply glazes to bisqueware.  Other people ONLY knew how to stack kilns. And so on.

 

This aspect also drove the rapid developments of things like jigger and jolly wheels.  Skilled throwers were expensive.  And took a long time long to train.  And got paid better than lower skilled people.  (Not that potters were EVER paid well!)  Training someone to use a jigger or jolly well was a very short term affair.  And the production rate was high and highly consistent.  Great profit incentive.

 

Another factor that impacted bisquing was the development and demand for more elaborate surface decoration.  Skilled hand painters of patterns and decorations also were paid more highly and were harder to find and train than less skilled labor.  Various transfer techniques were developed that allowed less skilled labor to apply sophisticated looking decoration onto the work.  These techniques either were easier to do on bisque work (for those less skilled workers)... or HAD to be done on bisque work.

 

So bisquing before applying surface decoration and glaze sort of became the "norm" for a lot of claywork. 

 

Green-glazing and doing decoration work directly onto raw unfired clay work is certainly possible.  Try it for a while... and you'll understand why bisquing became so prevalent in world ceramics.  It makes things SO much easier.

 

best,

 

.............john

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For the earliest lead glazes (at least in the UK - not sure about Persia) they just sprinkled some powdered galena (lead sulphide) onto the newly made, still damp pot. Then later, as you say, they made it into more of what we see as a glaze today.

Interestingly, in the ceramics factories that John describes, the glazers were paid 6 old pence (about 8 US cents) a week extra because of their shortened life expectancy due to lead poisoning - this affected all but about 5% of them, and of course enough people thought they'd be in the lucky 5% so became glazers for the extra money. There was no safe practice in those days to limit exposure through dust etc, so it was inhaled and ingested by the workers. From memory, about 400 died a year with lead poisoning on their death certificates (and probably lots more who also suffered from lead poisoning but had other causes on their certificates.

 

It was this that caused a drive to make safer glazes in the UK, making the glaze much safer to apply by using the (almost) insoluble lead bisilicate frit, lower lead content in glazes etc and this brought deaths down to zero.

 

When moves were made to introduce similar regulations in the US, all the factories were up in arms about it, saying that it would make them to expensive, destroy the business etc etc, which of course it didn't.

 

It was this drive to protect otters with very high levels of exposure to lead in the workplace that started the reaction against lead glazes, not the very very much lower exposure of users of pottery to small amounts of lead leaching out of glazes and, as I'm sure you all know, lead glazes are still used extensively in dinnerware in commercial production by factories (at least in Europe).

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Guest JBaymore

It was this drive to protect otters with very high levels of exposure to lead in the workplace that started the reaction against lead glazes, not the very very much lower exposure of users of pottery to small amounts of lead leaching out of glazes and, as I'm sure you all know, lead glazes are still used extensively in dinnerware in commercial production by factories (at least in Europe).

 

 

Yup..... and an awful lot of folks don't know this history of how we got where we are, or that there is still lead in some commercial glazes on functional wares.

 

best,

 

..................john

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oh but the color of galena <swoon> still my favorite color. 

 

i dont quite remember but i think in persia they either used a powder or a paste. 

 

i find all this fascinating stuff. esp. when the Pennsylvania Mercury reported that lead "has become a slow but sure poison" in 1785 yet i am not sure when pottery became lead free here. was it a 'lets not use lead anymore' situation or stoneware came along and redware became less popular for its porosity issue. i mean the first child in the US to be diagnosed with lead poisoning was in 1887, yet the lead based house paint ban didn't happen till 1978.

 

tim the lead in glazes today are lead bisilicate righ? encapsulated lead? in europe? would they use that for dinnerware?

 

my knowledge of lead came about when my daughter had to go through her regular lead test as a crawling baby. i was shocked to learn about how much lead we are still surrounded by (some christmas lights the green cord). and became aware of all the possibilities open to us to test for lead around us over the counter. 

 

john one day when i get a chance i will try green glazing. on this board i believe it is oldlady who does green glazing. but i can see where the difficulty lies just by seeing how different the glaze firings and bisque firings are. i wonder if ultimately we will go back to green glazing again. 

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A WOMAN started the first production pottery business in the USA: her name was Maria Longworth Storer. She pioneered many of the techniques used in pottery today such as bisq firing, underglazing, hand building, and painting. She also developed thousands of glazes: she had over 250,000 glaze recipes before the Great Depression closed the doors of the Rookwood Pottery. Another famous pottery woman of the time was Adelaide Robineau: on the east coast in Jersey. She brought her good friend from Limoge, France over to the States to start the University Pottery in St. Louis. His name was Taxtile Doat: the godfather of crystalline glaze.

 

Modern potters are familiar with Bernard Leach and Herbert Sanders: but it was actually two woman who really pioneered the American Pottery scene.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rookwood_Pottery_Company

 

http://tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa484.htm < been to this museum. Proceeds from this pottery supported the Women's Suffrage Movement.

 

Read some of the reference material listed on the bottom of this Wiki post.

 

Nerd

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didnt storer quit after she married her second husband and wasnt so involved with the pottery anymore. maybe not quit but pass down. 

 

there is quite a bit of history online where i read about her and rookwood pottery. the difference between rookwood and say family run potteries like the meaders. 

 

there is a lot of talk about popular items and medal winners but not so much info about processes. 

 

woah so rookwood pottery today (after all its changes) has turned into a sorta kinda gladding McBean pottery. interesting. 

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