Lustre Pottery

Written by John Kuczwal. Posted in Home

 

 

 

 

By lustre I mean reduced pigment or clay paste lustre. Commonly called “Arabian”“Persian”, or even "smoked lustre", its origins can be traced to the Middle East and the 9th century AD. It is thought that the technology may have developed from glass workers who had discovered that metal oxides could be used to stain glass.  The alkaline and lead based glazes in use at the time in the Middle East were receptive to the formation of lustre.

 

The earliest pigment lustre was believed to have been made in or around Baghdad (or perhaps Basra) in the early 9th century shortly after the making of the first tin glazed wares. The technique is difficult to control and its first makers may have inherited the knowledge from glass workers. The oxides of silver and copper are used by glass workers to apply line decoration and to colour glass, and it was these same oxides that most likely were responsible for the discovery that lustre could also form upon a receptive glaze.

As the centres of power shifted through the capitals of the Middle East, tin glazed ware (maiolica) and lustre spread into Europe via the Iberian peninsula (modern day Spain) possibly as early as the 11th century. Major production centres included Manises and Malaga.

In the 14th and early 15th century, lustreware from Spain found a receptive market in Italy and was soon being made in the ceramic centres of Deruta and Gubbio, amongst others. The Renaissance potters used the gold and red lustre colours in their magnificent maiolica paintings. The making of maiolica spread into other European countries, in France coming to be known as faience and in the Netherlands as delftware.

Special mention must be made of the workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli of Gubbio that prospered until 1536 when he handed it over to his son. Much of the work was made by others and elsewhere but lustered in his workshop. At its best, the deep ruby red lustre has to this day never been bettered.

Perhaps because it is such a difficult and unpredictable process or perhaps because of a change in taste or fashion, the making of reduced pigment (clay paste) lustre fell into decline.

Driven by a desire to copy the masterworks of the Renaissance cinquecento, a revival in the making of lustre took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in locations such as DerutaPesaroGualdo Tadino and Gubbio.

It was also given new life in individual studio workshops by men such as William De Morgan (England) Pilkingtons (Royal Lancastrian Pottery)(England), Vilmos Zsolnay (Hungary) and Clement Massier (France). These workshops also experimented with resinate lustre (a predictable form of lustre that may be fired in oxidation and suited to large scale production) and in-glaze lustre. Resinate lustre because of its predictability came to dominate production lustre making.

Gualdo Tadino in Italy and in particular, the Rubboli family maintained production of reduced pigment lustre until the late 20th century although the quality of the lustre declined in the latter years. Unfortunately makers in Gualdo   and other ceramic centres have turned to resinate lustre, an economical and predictable lustre for their production work. The Rubboli updraft lustre kiln is still in existence in Gualdo Tadino.

Alan Caiger-Smith and the Aldermaston Pottery in England played a pivotal role in re-introducing pigment lustre to the English speaking world. His book "Lustre Pottery: Technique, tradition and innovation in Islam and the Western World" remains important in explaining in practical terms how it is made and charting its history.

In Japan Takuo Kato after research visits to Iran brought back the technique to Tajimi. The workshop under his son continues to produce clay paste lustre works.

In Iran, Abbas Akbari is teaching, researching and making stonepaste and lustre works in Kashan, an ancient centre of lustre.

In Manises, Spain Arturo Mora Benavent is making and firing lustre and keeping the tradition alive.

In Australia, Alan Peascod following a chance meeting with an Egyptian potter from Fustat, Said El-Sadr, began to use the technique and in his role as teacher, innovator and as a maker of lustre, advanced the tradition.

Scattered around the world, there continues to be a handful of potters that use this most challenging of ceramic techniques, that of reduced pigment or clay paste lustre.

It is the technique I use in my work. A description of the technical aspects follows on the next page with additional information and images at   http://www.johnkuczwal.com

 

"Moonlight" Reduced Pigment Lustre on porcelain 2017