The Porcelain Garden & Lithophanes

We love our detailed Lithophane products by The Porcelain Garden. We hope you enjoy learning about this Sturbridge Yankee Workshop vendor and a little bit about where Lithophanes originated. You may consider our Fairy Moon Light for a unique gift idea this holiday season.


The Porcelain Garden originated in 1982 when Marty Kubicki and Liesa Smith joined together on a creative and talented idea. Beginning as a household ceramics company with sculpted flower decorations, Marty and Liesa slowly transitioned into carving porcelain throughout the early 1980’s. At some point during the early stages of their artistic venture, they happened to meet a wise collector who introduced them to Lithophanes. Lithophanes, like the one seen here to the left, are understood to be a sheet of porcelain that is carved to varying degrees of thickness that when held to the light, will produce a high quality image. The staff at The Porcelain Garden was very intrigued by this concept after they learned that the art form of creating lithophanes was unfortunately disappearing. Their goal was to reintroduce lithophanes to the world, using the knowledge and skills they had gained from their current work in porcelain.

We see the earliest forms of Lithophane production in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Chinese potters during this time would trace floral designs into porcelain vases; although simple, the later more complex scenes we see in Europe were clearly inspired by these pieces. In the early 19th century, historians discover that lithophanes or the like were being created throughout much of western Europe. However, many credit Baron Paul de Bourging of France for being one of the first to truly create the process of pottery decorating in 1827. Designs during this time consisted of famous individuals, religious, hunting and landscape scenes, as well as popular paintings.

Our beautiful Fairy Moon Light boasts a delicate image of a fairy gazing at a low crescent moon, set amongst a cloudy night sky by artist David Delamare. The lithophane design is encompassed by a brass finished, antique frame. A touch of color is painted on the back to highlight these breathtaking details. The incorporation of coloring lithophanes from the backside to create an even more impressive image was pioneered by The Porcelain Garden. Our Fairy Moon Light can be used as a small decor lamp in a hallway or to light a unique corner of your home. Though it can also be used as a larger night light, as many of the original lithophanes were made for. A large amount of them were developed for various types of lamps such as hurricane style, desk or table lamps, ceiling and wall sconces. A unique porcelain candle screen was also very popular and the Fairy Moon Light was inspired by such Victorian styles. In addition, lithophanes could simply be hung in windows, highlighted by the sunlight. Its most unusual application was found in Germany, at the bottom of their beer steins! Once the drink was finished a small image would appear at the base of the cup. This trend was also well known amongst owners of Japanese tea sets during the early 20th century, with images of geishas found at the bottom of a tea cup.

The Porcelain Garden has developed their own artistic skills for creating these magnificent pieces, yet much of what they do throughout the entire process remains the same as the techniques used by lithophane makers of the past. The very first lithophanes were of course made entirely by hand. However in the 1800’s, lithophane artists realized they could increase production if they produced a mold first. The mold of a wax carving would be thoroughly inspected by a master mold maker before becoming a plaster mold. When ready, the molds would be filled with a porcelain like paste and fired in a kiln. Due to the extreme high heat of the kiln much of the hard work that went into creating these masterpieces was destroyed; either becoming twisted, cracked or warped in some way. It was common for only about 40% of porcelain panels destined for life as a lithophane lamp or decor piece, to make it out unharmed. The chances for this happening are still very high today, yet with The Porcelain Garden’s electric kiln and electric mixers, the outcome can be far more controlled and consistent. Everything else from casting, finishing, drying and the inspecting of each piece is done in the same method to ensure the best quality product.

The Porcelain Garden is committed to their customers, providing excellent service over the last 30 years of business. They credit their talented and devoted staff for the success of their lithophanes; they are recognized as the most intricately detailed lithophanes in the United States. If you like our Fairy Moon Light, you may also consider our Santa’s Flight Night Light or our Bunny Night Light for the holidays or a child’s room.

 

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