Three Day Weekend - Part III


Pierrefonds French Art Nouveau Three-Handled Vase with Dripping Crystalline Glazing (LEO Design)


Let's end our three day French getaway with this handsome Art Nouveau vase, topped with three "ring-form" handles and dressed in a dynamic olive, turquoise and blue crystalline glaze.  It was made around 1910, in the shadow of the Château de Pierrefonds in the Commune de Pierrefonds.

Crystalline glazes are difficult to manage.  Since they cannot be controlled easily, they do not lend themselves to commercial production—where speed, consistency and predictability result in greater profitability.  Also, small variations in kiln temperature or firing time can produce wildly different (and unpredictable) results—sometimes resulting in manufacturing loss.

Crystalline glazes are usually composed of zinc, silica (glass) and frit (a sandy, ground ceramic compound).  Additionally, different metals might be added to the glaze to produce certain desired coloration outcomes.  Under extreme heat, the zinc and silica combine (into zinc silicate).  At this point, the glaze is fluid and will flow over the piece (and even flow off the piece, thus a "glaze catcher" must be attached to the bottom of each piece).  After reaching the glaze's melting point, the temperature of the kiln is slowly lowered, incrementally, during which time the crystals will begin to flower.

The temperature of the kiln is critical, not only at the high point but during the deliberate descent of the heat setting.  The fluidity of the molten glaze can create unpredictable glaze patterns (or ruin a kiln if too much of it runs-off of the piece).  And the balance of component ingredients can also greatly affect the outcome—resulting in too much or too little crystallization.  Of course, the potter can only control the outcome to a limited extent.  Opening the kiln, after hours of tedious temperature manipulation, can feel like Christmas day: "Let's see what we got!"  The "glaze catcher" will need to be removed carefully (without damaging the piece).  And there's bound to be heavy glazing which has flowed (and hardened) at the foot of the vase.  This will need to be chipped-away and ground-down to produce a smooth and even base.

To learn more about this handsome piece, please click on the photo above.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248