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blue mood

In English, the colour blue is associated with a melancholy mood. The Rhénanie collective wishes to give new expression to this colour. Contemporary artists will be given the freedom to explore traditional arts and crafts and to use the colour blue and its connotations as they see fit.

Betschdorf

— Alsatian Blues —

Sandstone was a material used in the Far East long before it was used for the first time in Europe, in 12th century Germany. It didn’t take long for its use to spread to the region known as Alsace, where potters had been long established, thanks to its argillaceous soil. …

Potters typically used two types of clay found in the area: a heavier clay found on the edge of the Hagenau Forest (1km from Betschdorf, France), and used to create ceramics for everyday use; and a finer clay found in the Westerwald (Germany), and used for ceramic art.

In the late 1860s, sandstone production in the region reached its peak, with 60 kilns in use. After the War of 1870, the numbers decreased dramatically, and in 1900 only 12 Alsatian kilns were still working. The increasing use of aluminum utensils after the First World War forced potters to redirect their energies to more artistic wares, which were appreciated and sought after by tourists.

The hallmark of the region’s pottery is the projection of salt through openings in the oven’s vault towards the end of the baking process. This creates a fine, transparent varnish, and waterproofs the pottery in a single bake.

Excerpts translated from Poteries d’Alsace by Catherine Mahon, Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace Editions, 1988

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Delft

— Dutch Blues —

In 1585, many potters whose works were inspired by Spanish and Italian majolica faience were driven from Antwerp to Delft by Spanish invaders. But in 1602, the Dutch East India Company, the largest commercial company of its time, inspired a new style when it began importing massive quantities of Chinese porcelain…

The potters of Delft were unable to produce authentic porcelain, due to a lack of kaolin (otherwise known as China clay) in their soil. Instead, they created faience. But the resemblances between the two are striking! Chinoiserie became as ubiquitous as the nuances of blue used therein. And from this moment on, the colour blue and the pottery of Delft were inextricably linked together.

The Golden Age, during which the pottery kilns of Delft were among the most important in all of Europe, lasted from 1600 to 1800. The Delft Blues, or Delftware, were collected and cherished by the wealthiest families the world over. As time moved inexorably on, however, they were less and less sought after, and the kilns closed down, one after the other, until but one was left to continue the tradition: Royal Delft, founded in 1653 and still active today.

Source: www.royaldelft.com - the only Delft manufacturer

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The History of Blue

— Michel Pastoureau —

Although the ceramics best known for their use of the colour blue are Chinese porcelains, which appeared for the first time during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty of the 12th and 13th centuries, their first appearance is in 10th century Iraq, thanks to the discovery of cobalt in neighbouring Iran. Today’s blue pigments are obtained by the use of mineral, organic and synthetic materials..…

The most common mineral used in the production of blue pigments is azurite. Azurite was first discovered by the Egyptians, during the classical Antiquity period. Lapis lazuli appeared later, and began to be imported from the Far East during the Middle Ages. Because it was more precious than azurite, it was less commonly used. The various means of grinding the stone created an assortment of blue hues. Greek and Roman artisans ground the entire stone, for instance, creating lighter hues than their counterparts in Asia, who ground only the blue elements of the stone.

The most common organic sources of blue dye were woad, grown extensively in Europe, and indigo, which was imported from the East Indies. During the 17th and 18th centuries, competition was stiff between growers in Europe and the West Indies. In France, for example, importation of indigo was slowed, in order to allow the lucrative woad-growing business to flourish. Indigo won out in the end, though, due to the depth of its hues (20 times stronger than woad) and lower production costs.

But the most frequently used pigments are synthetic. A smalt equivalent was discovered 5000 years ago by the Egyptians, wishing to reproduce the colour of lapis lazuli, which was deemed too precious to grind. A glass paste was mixed with copper, which hardened and was then ground to create the powder. This pigment was the only blue used in mural painting from the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt (2613-2494 BC) until the Middle Ages. The Renaissance brought with it the discovery of smalt: glass, coloured blue with cobalt oxide, which was then ground into a powder to create a pigment. It was highly sought-after in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly by the Flemish, and was a part of the palettes of such illustrious painters as Vermeer and Rembrandt. Velasquez, too, is known to have used smalt; though he combined it with lapis lazuli to create his blues.

And, not to be outdone by the painters, the ceramicists in Delft and elsewhere used smalt to colour their wares. In was also used in Betschdorf, Alsace, though to a lesser degree.

Source: " Blue: the History of a Color", by Michel Pastoureau, Princeton University Press, 2001

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