Characterized by a snow-white background with bright cobalt blue decorations,
Gzhel artists are masters of subtlety. With only two colors to work with they
nevertheless manage to imbue their figurines with endearing, lifelike expressions.
Likewise, their decorative work, which makes use of plant and flower designs, is
vibrantly alive. Thanks to skillful use of brushstrokes, the eye is guided up and
down and around the piece, leaving you with the impression that the artist has literally
painted life into it.
Gzhel has been in existence since the 14th century when an especially
fine clay was discovered in the Gzhel region of Russia. Initially, as artists experimented
with the medium, a variety of colors were used. Gradually however, the distinctive cobalt
blue emerged as the most striking and effective color against the porcelain's stunning
white surface, and Gzhel as we know it today was born. The 6 main centers of production
for Gzhel porcelain products are located in and around the town of Gzhel, some 50 km from
Moscow. Although no longer under the control of the Soviet government, most of the artists
paint from patterns that were created 650 years ago. The beauty of these patterns is that
they are designed with the artist in mind, allowing each individual to add his or her
personal touch. As a result, Gzhel patterns are constantly evolving and no two pieces are
ever exactly the same. When you purchase a Gzhel you know that you truly own a one of a
kind work of art.
How Gzhel Porcelain is created
Highly experienced shapers cast plaster models of the prospective item on a device that consists of a potter's wheel with two uprights onto which the craftsman places a wooden support for his hand. Employing a steel cutter with a long wooden handle the shaper scrapes off the excessive plaster. Next. proceeding from the plaster model, the craftsman contrives a work-mould.
The moulder pours into the work-mould a viscous china paste. The porous plaster of the work-mould dehydrates the paste which, gradually solidifying, acquires the desired shape. After the hollow form has completely hardened the work-mould is sliced open to allow the rough article to be removed for further processing.
After the first firing the artist paints the article retracing his initial design in a cobalt blue. The traditional hand-painted decoration is comprised of floral and geometrized ornamental motives applied with sure and swift brushwork. Since the designs are painted by hand this makes for diversification of one and the same pattern.
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