When I was thirty years old, I took china painting lessons. This little creamer is one of many items I produced while in class. Although I had painted many oils, watercolors, and acrylic landscapes; the technique for laying down china painting medium is totally different.
First, the paint is crushed glass with pigment and it has to by mixed with linseed oil. As you place your brush on the slick surface of the porcelain, if you put too much pressure on the brush, nothing happens. In order to lay color down, it takes a very light touch. To highlight or lighten areas, pressure is applied.
On the first lesson I learned to erase mistakes, wipe off with a finger or a little cloth. This was very different than the other mediums I had used. At the end of the class the teacher took our pieces to fire them. She told us that some of the image might disappear and some of the colors might change. It was difficult for me to release my labor into her hands and for it to be put in the fires.
The following week, the plate had been fired. Much of my labor was gone. Much of it barely showed up on the white porcelain. Other colors were brilliant. One thing was for certain. The piece was not finished.
The teacher demonstrated how to layer color into the background to make the foreground stand out and give definition to the petals. Still, at the end of class, I found it hard to release since I knew it would come out of the 3000+ degree fire changed. I remembered that it would be useless to think the painting I had done in class would stand the test of time without the fire. All the work would vanish the first time it was washed. So, I let it go into the fire several more times after laying on more depth of color.
The work of the fire was to melt the crushed glass into the porcelain and fuse the pigmented glass into the fabric of the porcelain. It had to be hot, very hot, to do this. The very last firing was to make the gold edging permanent.
When I first saw the gold paint, I was very upset. It was ugly army green. I didn't want to put that on my now beautiful plate. That stuff didn't look like gold to me. Of course, I didn't want to disappoint my teacher, so I let it got into the fire once again. The kiln isn't fired up as hot for the gold application. If it is fired at the same temperature used before on the plate, it either burns or disappears.
I almost cried when I saw that first plate. I couldn't believe I had made something so pretty. The gold was awesome. Even though it was a painstaking process, the end result was worth it.
Now for the lesson I learned with this. God uses crushed glass (things of importance to us) to paint on us. Our life is the porcelain piece. Some of the beautiful things painted seem to vanish after each fiery trial, but he brings the loveliness to the forefront with a few more dark brushstrokes before we go through the fire again. In the end, we come forth with gold and are a vessel that can be used because the work that He has done in us is not temporary, but melted into our very spirit.
Do not despise the firing in God's kiln. It is to bring out beauty that could never be shared otherwise.
Elaine Littau, author