Porcelain Figurines

Soul Mates

When did Porcelain Figurine Manufacturing Begin

First of all – What is Porcelain?

Porcelain uses kaolin as well as other materials to create a ceramic material (According to the British Dictionary "Ceramic material is a hard brittle material made by firing clay and similar substances") This is achieved by heating the materials to between 1200 and 1400 Degrees Centigrade in a kiln. 

It was the Chinese who were the first to successfully develop Porcelain about 2000 years ago.  As time went on more countries in East Asia developed the skill and eventually European Countries mastered the art as did the rest of the World.

Secondly – What is a Figurine?

According to the Collins English Dictionary a Figurine is “a small carved or moulded figure; statuette”

Noun: 1854, from French figurine (16c.), from Italian figurina, diminutive of figura, from Latin figura 

In other words it is a ‘small Statue that represents a Deity, Human or Animal'.

How did the making of Porcelain Figurines Begin in Europe

The skill reached the West in 1710 when a man named Johann Friedrich Bottger was able to produce ‘hard-paste’ porcelain that was as good as that produced in China and Eastern Asia.  He already had an expertise in making glazed earthenware at a Factory in Dresden.  His porcelain making career began in Meissen by the River Elbe.

Herr Johann Joachim Kandler is the most well known of the artists who began creating Porcelain Figurines. He based his designs initially on costumed actors and these figurines became very popular.

One of the most delicate of techniques was being produced at this time.  It was known as ‘Dresden Lace’ and was made to imitate real lace on a Lady figurine's billowing crinoline dress.  It was very effective and was achieved by dipping pieces of real lace into a porcelain slip (A slip is a liquid mixture or slurry of clay and/or other materials suspended in water.) and then applying it to the porcelain figurine itself.  This was very fragile as when fired, the fabric would combust leaving only the porcelain.

As time progressed many of the Potteries in the rest of Europe used the expertise of the Germans to produce their own versions of the porcelain figurine.  Notably Capodimonte in Naples was one such example.

How did the Manufacture of Porcelain Figurines come to Britain.

It was in Staffordshire, England that the production of ceramics began in the early 17th Century. The reason it started in this particular area was because the salt, coal, lead and clay necessary for its production was available locally. The towns of Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall is where it all began and these towns together have now become Stoke-on-Trent City.  The area is known as the Staffordshire Potteries.

Salt-glazed stoneware was the first medium to be used for Staffordshire figurines but soon bone china was commonly used. 

The Difference between Pure Porcelain and Bone China

A mixture of bone ash and very refined clay is used to make Bone China. It stays a light cream or even pure white when it is fired above 2200 degrees Fahrenheit and it has a translucency giving it a delicate and refined look despite is being a very durable ceramic for the likes of tableware.

Porcelain on the other hand is made from Kaolin clay which is a white clay that has been refined.  It usually has a translucent appearance, is thinner and lighter than Bone China and is nonporous.  It has a very delicate look about it. 

The thing that makes Porcelain stand out is its white colouring.  This white colouring is maintained by the clay being dipped in a clear glaze after it has been fired at over 2300 degrees Fahrenheit.  For this reason it is not usually painted as its white appearance is very desirable.

The Rise in Popularity of Porcelain Figurines

The Staffordshire Artists were very much influenced by what they saw around them in rural life and especially the British Monarchy.  They produced animal figurines in abundance, including wild animals and every farmyard animals you could think of.  Figurines of Dogs were particular favourites including the King Charles’ Spaniel.  It is thought that Queen Victoria’s pet was the inspiration for this particular model.