Making our special ceramics
March 14, 2021
Handmade and hand-painted ceramics are an ongoing tradition at MacKenzie-Childs, and they compose a large portion of what we call our Aurora Artisanal collection. Ceramics are, after all, how we got our start back in 1983.
To celebrate our handcrafted past, present, and future, we produce special ceramics in limited quantities throughout the year. Two of these pieces—the Tulip Garden Egg Vase and the Tulip Garden Egg Dish—are available now while quantities last. They are the first-ever Easter ceramics that we have produced, and they capture the freshness of spring with a pattern of hand-painted tulips along with black and white checks.
It can take up to a year to produce a limited-edition ceramic from the moment the idea is imagined to the finished product being available on our website and store shelves. There are many people involved in the production process, and each adds a unique layer of artistry.
Designer Kathleen Connell provided the initial drawings for the two Easter pieces. Kathleen, who has been with the company for 26 years, says tulips are a favorite design motif. They’re on our King Ferry Taylor ceramic pattern and certain pieces of our hand-painted furniture, including our Flower Basket Side Chair. For the Easter ceramics, Kathleen was inspired by some legacy glassware that featured tulips as she imagined each new Easter silhouette.
Upon approval of her images by Creative Director and Chief Brand Officer Rebecca Proctor, Kathleen then made a schematic diagram that our Mold Shop used to make a plaster model for the egg dish. The silhouette for the egg vase, meanwhile, was adapted from a component on a legacy chandelier. Kathleen also made detailed instructionals, showing our ceramic painters how to complete the hand-painted decoration of the pieces. From there, a sample of each product was produced, and plans were made to integrate the items into our regular production schedule.
Each Tulip Garden piece takes about three and a half weeks to create, and the entire production run of several hundred pieces requires a few months. There are various steps involved, from molding and pressing the clay, to bisque firing, to waxing and glazing, to hand-painting and a final firing. It takes about 15 minutes to paint each piece, using a special Mason Stain application. Three of our ceramic decorators are trained in this technique, so they shared these painting duties.
You can look for more limited-edition ceramics in the future, and you just might want to mark your calendars for September, when we will celebrate our third Simply Smashing September. Last year, we introduced five limited-edition Courtly Check silhouettes to mark the 25th anniversary of our signature pattern.