Our Chaucer Journey – The making & painting

This is a short-ish version of how we actually make our Canterbury Tales Collection. It’s hard to over-emphasise quite how hand made our work is, so we thought some photographs would help. Please click through the pics on the left to see them in all their glory.

After a three stage moulding process from the original design, every figure is individually cast using liquid clay – known as slip – into plaster of paris working moulds. Using a top secret recipe and equally hush-hush timings excess clay is poured away and the moulds are carefully opened to reveal the figure inside. After a period drying the pieces are “fettled”, trimmed and sponged to remove seams, rough areas and generally provide a perfect surface for painting. Some pieces are made using more than one mould so this where any heads, limbs, ears or even tails will be “stuck” on.

This stage is one of the unseen but critical and highly skillful elements of our work. It requires a deft but delicate touch and a lot of attention to detail. One of the pictures on the left shows what happens if you’re too firm with the trimming knife!

The pieces are fired for the first time in the kiln to become “bisque” and are then inspected and hand-glazed by our talented decorating team. Every decorator then trims, signs, “backstamps” and prepares the glazed surface for painting. We use hand brushwork directly onto the powder-dry glaze before it’s been fired, which means the surface is incredibly absorbent and there’s little room for mistakes! The decorators tend to start with hand-painting the face if possible as they say it conjours the spirit of the individual piece and helps them focus on what they are depicting. You may have already noticed that the colours we paint with change, sometimes dramatically, during the final “glost” firing so the decorating team are vigilant not to mix colours up.

Once painted the figures are carefully packed into the kiln. They are picked up by hand, taken to the kiln and fitted snugly together, all without smudging the painting. A delicate 3d jigsaw.

Then…we wait. About 36 hours, before the kiln doors are cool enough to open and reveal the treasure inside. A bit of Alchemy and a lot of industrial Artistry.