27 March 2013

Ming Polychrome Porcelains

A Ming polychrome jar, Jiajing mark and period, 1522-1566
Copyright Parvum Opus.

As part of the series of paintings for our Parvum Opus 2013 desk calendar, I chose to paint a portrait of this stunning Ming jar for the month of May. It was irresistible with those charming fish swimming around the perimeter, and the vibrant range of colors. Given the beautiful fish, a cheerful bunch of sunflowers seemed just the thing. This piece, nearly 500 years old, was created during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor, the 11th of the Ming Dynasty. Although his era name means "admirable tranquility," Wikipedia describes him as a ruthless leader whose neglect of his official duties led to the dynasty's decline. 

The Jiajing emperor aboard his state barge, from a scroll by an
unknown Ming artist, ca. 1538. Via Wikipedia.

I came across this very short but informative article about the history of multi-colored Chinese porcelains while visiting the British Museum website, a favorite online haunt. Courtesy of the British Museum: "The term 'overglaze enamels' is used to describe enamel decoration on the surface of a glaze which has already been fired. Once painted, the piece would be fired a second time, usually at a lower temperature. The first use of overglaze enamelling is found on the slip-covered wares of northern China. This was an innovation of the Jin dynasty (1115-1234), with documented pieces as early as 1201. These were utilitarian wares, not for imperial use. Under the emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911) dynasty, the various techniques of overglaze enamelling reached their heights at the manufacturing centre in Jingdezhen.

Cizhou ware ceramic pillow, late 11th early 12th century.
Courtesy of the British Museum.

The article continues: "The most highly prized technique is known as doucai ('joined' or 'contrasted' colours), first produced under the Ming emperor Xuande (1426-35), but more usually associated with Chenghua (1465-87). Cobalt was used under the glaze to paint the outlines and areas of blue wash needed in the design. The piece was then glazed and fired at a high temperature. Overglaze colours were painted on to fill in the design. The piece was then fired again at a lower temperature.

From the British Museum: a Doucai Jar, 1465-87, Chenghua period

Lastly, the British Museum article describes the piece in my illustration:"Wucai wares, meaning 'five colours', were also developed in the Ming dynasty. A full palette of polychrome enamels or mixed colours is used. These pieces tend to be larger than doucai wares, with stronger colours, more intricate designs, and very little white showing. The best-known wucai wares are from the reign of Wanli (1573-1620). There were also important developments under the Qing dynasty. Famille rose (pink), jaune (yellow),noire (black) and verte (green) were overglaze enamel-decorated porcelains made from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and later."

Very similar to the jar in my calendar illustration, this piece is
also Jiajing period. Courtesy of the British Museum.

I hope you'll agree that the development of this art form, with artisans' experimentation spread over a millennium, never ceases to amaze. 

12 March 2013

New at the Bindery: Handmade Accordion Files

One of our new small accordion files made with Japanese Chiyogami paper covers.
Click here to see more details at the P.O. online shop.
Copyright Parvum Opus, LLC

It's been a cheerfully busy winter at the bindery, and I thought I'd share some of the new projects we've been working on for our clientele in whom we find continuing inspiration. Our new handmade accordion files have proven to be quite popular with wedding/event planners, interior designers and artistic people who want every detail of their home and office to be both functional and special. 

A small 12-pocket accordion file with marbled paper covers and 2-tone geranium pockets.Click here to see more details at the P.O. online shop.
Copyright Parvum Opus, LLC

The files shown below measure 9.5" x 7" (medium) and 4.5" x 6.5" (small), with larger files also available. Since adding these colorful and useful pieces to our permanent repertoire, we have been pleasantly surprised by the positive response.

Small and medium 6- and 12-pocket accordion files in cheerful colors.Click here to see more details at the P.O. online shop.
Copyright Parvum Opus, LLC

Like everything we do, our files are made to order using all archival materials, so they're perfect for storing everything from bills, take away menus and receipts to precious photographs or love letters. To label the file pockets, we suggest "Post-it Durable File Tabs," which are easily removable. At the bindery, we stock a palette of twelve beautiful papers from Japan, France and Italy which we use for the file covers as shown here. 

A medium 6-pocket file with lovely turquoise Florentine paper covers.
Click here to see more details at the P.O. online shop.
Copyright Parvum Opus, LLC

Accordion files can be made in most any custom size, with pockets in a rainbow of colors. I have to say, it's such fun to make the individual pockets in alternating colors, gather them up into an accordion, and finally see them fanned out in all their 'springy' glory. We thoroughly  enjoy working with these exquisite materials, and just seeing their lovely colors assures me that spring is definitely on the way.

A medium 12-pocket file with fresh green and ivory Florentine paper.
here to see more details at the P.O. online shop.
Copyright Parvum Opus, LLC