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“That’s what fingers are for,” she says, smiling.
After the colors are applied, the piece is fired in a kiln. At times, however, especially when the artist wishes to add depth through multi-hued shading, the china must be fired not once but several times. Looking at Jeanette’s elegant work, an observer would imagine most of her pieces were put through the process many times.
Once the piece is fired for its final time, however, the colors are permanent. Whether used with food or drink or washed, the paint won’t come off.
Some projects are easier to make than others. Dark colors, like black, sometimes require many firings before the color is uniform with no light spots. Jeanette is happy to see these tedious projects come to an end. Some pieces, she says, you enjoy doing more than others.
Although Jeanette handles her china carefully, occasionally a piece does get broken, like a pitcher she had in her living room. It came crashing down from the table, and the handle broke off. Those things happen. But she saves it, planning to copy the pattern onto another piece.
Though Jeanette has sold some of her work, she gives most away as gifts— like the very first piece she made. She gave that to a close friend as a birthday present.
Some people confuse the art of china painting with decals applied to ceramics, but the two crafts are distinct from each other. Jeanette can tell the difference. She can also occasionally tell if a work is manufactured or hand painted, noting the real thing by the almost indistinguishable paint strokes, although most of the time the paint melts in the kiln, erasing these strokes.
It’s an art, Jeanette says, that has to be kept up. If she hasn’t painted in a while, she finds herself wondering, did I mix this right? Is it painting the way it should? And she may have to start over again.
She applies another stroke to her blue bird and pauses, looking at the result.
“You know, you have a feeling of satisfaction when you’re done with it,” she says. “You feel like you’ve accomplished something.”