This week we’ve been sharing selected pieces from our recent shipment of European art pottery, now in-store at LEO Design. Let’s end the parade with something a little different: a stoneware plate by Giefer-Bahn with an incised decoration and a hand-painted salt glaze finish. Geifer-Bahn was founded in 1947 by Klothilde Giefer-Bahn, then a newly minted “Ceramics Engineer.” She made decorative, functional items like plates, platters, jugs and steins—as well as sculptural figures, especially animals. Her son, Roland, a master potter himself, now runs the company her mother founded.
Salt glazing is a technique invented in Medieval Rhineland Germany (the very area where Giefer-Bahn was located) whereby salt is introduced to the kiln during the firing process. The sodium within the salt reacts with the silica within the clay object, resulting in a coating of sodium silicate over the glazed body. The process creates a glossy, slightly textured surface (similar to an orange peel) and the color palette is a limited to (mostly) blues, grey and browns.
Folklore tells us that salt glazing was invented just prior to the year 1400 when a potter ran out of wood (to fuel his kiln) in the middle of a firing. To avoid disaster, the panicked potter used wood from broken sauerkraut barrels—wooden pieces encrusted with a salty residue. Like many glazing techniques, happenstance and accident played their roles in the discovery of a new and interesting development. Before long, pottery with the new glazing technique was being shipped out of the Rhineland to the rest of Germany and greater Europe. The clay indigenous to this area has a cool grey coloration.
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