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Cornish China stone
The ordinary potters' clay is employed for common earthenware, and always burns either yellow or red, according to the quantity of iron it may contain. The blue clay owes its color to the admixture of carbonaceous matter, and is always very white after burning. This clay varies very much in composition, another sample having given, upon analysis-silica, 46; alumina, 38. Cracking clay was first used by the Wedgewoods, and from the peculiarity to which it owes its name it could be used in combination with a large quantity of flint only, as in the Wedgewood stone ware.
The mode of preparation adopted both by the French and English establishments for the China clay is the same. The decomposed granite, which contains much quartz, and usually some mica, is exposed on an inclined plane to a fall of water which washes it down a trench, whence it is conducted to “catch-pits." The quartz and mica are principally retained in the first pit, the water flowing over it into the second, carry. ing with it only the lighter particles. There is usually a third “catch-pit, which receives the water charged with the fine clay only, the result of the decomposition of the feldspar in the granite. The clay sediment is allowed to settle; the water, as it becomes clear, being drawn off from time to time. By repeating this process many times the receiver becomes full of clay. This is allowed to dry, so as to admit of being cut out into cubical or prismatic masses of sides of about one foot, which are carried to a sheltered position and placed on frames to dry. When considered to be sufficiently void of moisture, the masses are carefully scraped, packed in casks, and sent off to the potteries. The process of preparing and cutting out the clay is usually performed by men and boys; women and girls einployed to scrape the dry masses and prepare them for packing.
It appears from parliamentary statistics that about 1,757 tons of this clay were exported from Charlestown, a port near St. Austel, to the potteries in 1809. In 1826 he export had increased to 7.090 tons. Oilate years the demand has greatly increased, and China Clay is not now used in the manufacture of porcelain alone; but many thousand tons are annually employed in calico bleaching establishments, to give tne cloth an artificial whiteness.
There is a particular class of ceramic manufacture which is deserving of notice here, both from its intrinsic value and from the great popularity it has attained--we refer to the parian statnettes, or the statuary porcelain. However doubtful it may be whether the imperfections which must always exist in a material which shrinks one-fourth in the process of manufacture will not have an unfavorable effect upon the production of superior china, no one can doubt that copies of the best productions of art, rendered accessible to the less wealthy classes of society, must tend to the improvement of taste and the advancement of civilization. The first idea of initating marble in ceramic manufacture is said to have originated in 1842, with Mr. Thomas Battam, the artist directing a large porcelain manufactory in England. The Duke of Sutherland saw the first specimen produced, and became the purchaser of it. Since that time, both in England and on the continent, Parian statuettes have
become a favorite article of manufacture, so that not only have we become familiar through their means with the most celebrated antique statues, but the chef d'auvres of Thorwaldsen, Daneker, Cellini, Foley, Gibson, Westmacott, Bell, Powers, and Greenough, have been everywhere known through these copies.
According to the English classification in the Exhibition, the material of which the biscuit figures and forms are made is divided into three kinds, viz: Statuary porcelain, parian, and Carzara. This is a factitious and perfectly unnecessary refinement, the materials differing only in the proportions of the ingredient used in the manufacture. The composition, according to the analysis, is, silica, 40.35; alunina, 32; soda, 4.16; potash, 2.51; with traces of lime, magnesia, and iron. The material is used in a liquid state, technically called "slip," about the consistence of thick cream. It is poured into moulds forming the tigure or group, which, being made of plaster, rapiuly absorb a portion of the moisture, and the coating immediately next the moulds soon becomes of sufficient thickness for the cast, when the superfluouis “ slip” is poured back. The cast remains in the mould for some time at a high temperature, by which means it is, through the evaporation that takes place, reduced to a state of clay sufficiently firm to be on its own weight when relieved of the moulds, which are then opened and the different portions of the subject taken out. Each figure requires many moulds—the head, arms, and hands, legs, body, and parts of drapery, (when introduced,) and the other details of the subject, are moulded separately. The parts, being removed from the moulds, have to be repaired, the seams cleaned off, and the whole put together. This is, of course, a delicate process, requiring much artistic skill; for, though all the parts should even be froin the same mould, it by no means follows that all the casts will be of equal merit, so much, in fact, depending upon the taste and skill of the finisher. In the process of drying, as alluded to before, the figure contracts onefourth, so that a mollel, which, when moist, was two feet high, becomes, when completed, not more than eighteen inches. This necessarily requires many nice adjustments on the part of the figure maker; and, notwithstanding every precaution, a great many of the statuettes exhibit distortions of the Mmbs and other parts, which arise from the unequal contraction of the clay.
We have said that the first figure was made in 1842, and yet that ought not strictly to be deemned its origin, since, for many years, the works at Chelsea, England, supplied chimney ornaments not altogether unlike these. Many of the old Chelsea porcelain figures were very finely executed, but by far the larger number were grotesque imitations or humanity. Dresden was also celebrated for producing figures, and these were not unfrequently of a fair character as works of art. After this, Wedge wood, of Etruria, England, introduced a stone ware—a vitritied body of a highly silicious character--which has been largely sold in our country.
This material was exceedingly valuable for giving permanence to many of the most choice relics which time has spared us of the vases of antiquity. Flaxman aided Wedgewood by his genius, and the result, was a high elevation of the character of potiery manufacture. Still the idea of imitating marble in cerainic manu tacture did not occur tu them, and its real origin is with Mr. Battam, as before mentioned, in the year 1842. Since that time a trade of large commercial importance to the potteries has arisen, and the introduction of this manufacture has already advanced, and is destined to advance still more, the artistic taste of ceramic wares.
Numerous examples of this manufacture were found in the Exhibition. Messrs. Minton & Co, exhibited statuettes and busts from designs by Daneker, Cellini, Thorwaldsen, Westmacott, Towresned, and Bell. the Victoria dessert service, which was purchased by the Queen for one thousand guineas, and presented to the Emperor of Austria, was the combination of Parian and fine porcelain, effected with great skill and considerable taste. The service was a full one, consisting of 72 dessert plates, 20 compotiers, and 24 other articles; it is white, turquoise, and gold. In the wine cooler, which stands in the centre, the union of high art with manufacture is finely exemplified. Round the outside it has, in bas-relief, a bear hunt represented, and hunters, with their dogs, form a series of statuette groups round the pedestal. A streak of gold runs in and out through the design, and the whole had a most pleasing effect, the parian contrasting admirably with the glazed porcelain. The whole was crowned with an infant Bacchus pulling grapes. The expense of designing, modelling, and decorating this service, which took twelve months of labor, would have been but little less than the amount for which it has been sold.
Another article worthy of notice was the Parnassus vase, which, like the Victoria service, was a combination of parian and porcelain. The china was in nazarine, richly gilt; while the parian bas-relief repre. sented Apollo and the Muses. The modellings of the fes toons on this vase are considered equal to Sevres.
There was also a dessert centre, with parian figure supporter. It was in turquoise and gold, with delicately-painted flowers; and the cross S., beautifully brought out before it, marks it as part of a service manufactured for the Marquis of Stafford.
In addition to these, we may enumerate, as objects of especial interest, the Cellini Ewer, by Minton & Co.; Dorothea, Clorinda, Miranda, Una, and the Lion and the Babes in the Wood, by John Bell; the Distressed Mother, after Sir R. Westniacott's Statue, in Westminster Abbey; Love restraining Wrath, an original group, by Beattie; and the Greek Slave, by Powers.
It would be difficult to over-estimate the value of this material, to the manufacture of which it has become so prominent a feature.
The successful position taken by the English potters in the Exhibition was due mainly to its introduction, and its prompt adoption by the public.
The increased love of art, which has been created by the multiplica. tion of examples of statues of a high order through this process, is one of the most pleasing of the results which have attended it. Of the salutary influence of the popular cultivation of art, in a moral and social point of view, there can be no doubt; and on this ground, among others, especially in our own country, where works of art must necessarily be for many years to come confined to copies, we desire to see the fine examples in staruary porcelain largely multiplied.
Furniture. It was not to be expected, in the matter of furniture and decorations, that the United States could contest upon equal ground with the nations
of Europe. Even had we been fairly represented in these productions, had the workshops of our cities sent the products of their handiwork across the ocean, and had the division which we occupied showed a fair exponent of the skill and taste of our cabinet artisans, we must have fallen far below the older countries in the comparison. We have not the wealth (and Heaven grant we may never have!) in the hands of the few, which can find only in the result of years of toil a return adequate to its demands; nor have we such poverty among the many as will render labor, at mere living wages, a god send thankfully received and readily embraced. Our mission is other than to equal or excel the world in the pro. ducts of taste. We have lessons to teach in the capacity of man, rather than lessons to learn in his handicraft. It is folly to expect that we have reached already, or that we can ever reach, that which is alone attainable where classes in society continue from age to age as the feudal system left them. England might regret, with as much reason, that she could not rear a pyramid to stand for centuries, as we of the United States that it is beyond our power to carve the Kenilworth buffet. Compared with the starving slaves of old Egypt, Europe is as far advanced as we beyond the miserable system that confines the lace-worker to his perpetual dungeon, or ekes out to the Manchester weaver his miserable dole.
And yet there is that in the result of ill-paid toil which, by other means, we may seek to attain. The high standard which the taste of the cultivated minds in monarchical governments has demanded and real. ized is to be aimed for in a republic where men are born free and equalnot, indeed, to be at once attained, never, in fact, to be reached by the same road, but to be sought as a good to be enjoyed, and even increased, by the only means through which man must hereafter reach all highest excellence.
It is no unimportant indication of the signs of the times, that the mere perfection of a laborious process no longer claims, even in Europe, the highest roward. The rule announced at the Exhibition confined the great medals which should be given to the introduction of a new princi.. ple into the useful arts; and though attempted to be passed over by the juries in several instances, the rule was invariably held inviolate in the last decision. Wood carvings of the greatest labor, lace textures of the most wonderful skill, diamond bracelets and jewelled coronels of the rarest beauty, gave place, in the rank of merit, to the reaper and the plough—and this, too, when the one attracted the attention of thousands, and was daily chronicled through the public prints; while the other was passed by unnoticed and almost unknown.
In furniture, upholstery fittings, and general decoration of interiors, England has of late years occupied a place of marked inferiority as compared with her continental neighbors. The furniture of England has ever been in good repute for its sterling qualities, but in forms and ornanient, it has been of the worst. The paper hangings of England, for example, have furnished specimens of as bad combined forms and colors as could possibly have been met with in the same amount of space. The reason for this state of things was similar to that in our own country. The decorator, cabinet-maker, and upholsterer were without training in ornament and its application to their purposes. They were without uides. No schools of design existed, no books fitted to instruct them
were known. They were left to pick up the necessary knowledge of form and ornament as they best could.
With these reasons existing, it is not strange that excellence in work. manship and beauty in material should be combined with arrangements of ornament exceedingly unclassical, and questionable in taste.
That a change, greatly for the better, has taken place in England, and that it will not be without good effect in our own country,
there can be no doubt. The mere fact alone, that works of merit have been written as guides to artisans, and that they are afforded at a price which will bring them within the reach of all, will produce this result.
Perhaps the most important and highly ornamental piece of furniture, of which a large number was exhibited, was the sideboard, or, as it is termed in England, the “ buffet.". The largest of the various specimens was found in the French division, exhibited by Tourdrinier. The wood was walnut. The style of ornament, that which is denominated Renais
Four wood-carved figures in the back, the anatomical detail of which was exceedingly correct, symbolized Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Dead game and fish, fruit and grain, all of wood carving, were grouped around with admirable skill, and it was only when one remembered that fitness of purpose is the first element of design, that its unusually large dimensions became a drawback on its beauty.
As an offset to this greatly admired specimen of French taste, Jackson and Graham, in the English department, exhibited a sideboard of oak. Perhaps there was no piece of furniture in the Exhibition that more en. tirely fulfilled all the conditions of good design, fitness of purpose, purity of style, fine execution, even to the smallest detail, and carefully-selected material, than this. No ornament appeared to be introduced but what had a purpose to fulfil, the best evidence of which was that its removal would leave a disagreeable blank. Careful finish characterized the whole; and there was abundant evidence that from the groupings on the panels, ty pifying the chase, fishing, agriculture, and vintage, down to the smallest ornament, there had been the hand of an artist in the work. If models of what true taste in furnitire is could be brought within the reach of our people, we are convinced that, without additional expense, they would prove the best aids to cultivation. A work like this of which we are speaking would be a source of improvement to the young, as well as an object of admiration to the cultivated; and to the practical cabinetmaker, as a piece of work where sections of mouldings are well preserved, and their intersections carefully attended to—where, in fact, the mechanic has shown himself all that the true workman is proud to be, and has done the most to render a fine design imperishable-the whole thing would be invaluable.
The two articles of which we have spoken were in the Renaissanco style. Near by the last were a sideboird in walnut, and a cabinet in oak, inviting special attention as models of the classic style, marked “ Sheffield School of Design.". If these were really models of classic furniture, we trust that the clussic will never extend its influence across the water; for our people would say, as Falstaff said of honor, “ We'll none of it." The execution of the work was as admirable as the conception was wretched. The sideboard was, in fact, the model of an indifferent façade to a building, and the cabinet suggested the form of