With my backlog nearly completed, I took one day off and ran up to the Breakables and Fairytales Live at Breyerfest for the evening. This is a North American Model Horse Shows Association qualifier competition for all ceramic (and OF resin) model horses. It is the only model horse show at Breyerfest where you will see horses aged 100 years or more competing -and winning!- against the latest issues. There are categories for horse ceramics from every corner of the earth, made from every type of earth! You couldn't tell by now that I love the vintage pieces, adore the unusual- and this show did not disappoint. I did some proxy exhibiting for clients, but I managed to get a couple of photos of pieces that struck me as interesting.
The problem all horse artist-potters face is, how do you make a piece of china look like a horse, with all the variety of markings and colors? As many potters as there were and are, there are just as many answers, and that is what makes an all-ceramic model horse show such a great treat.
Dapples and Reverse Dapples
This dapper gent (unusually, it's not a mare polo pony) was the Rosenthal factory's answer to the question of dappling and reverse dappling, back in 1911. Some modern collectors may overlook this fellow, but there is a lot going on here. His roached mane and forelock have individually painted hairs. His eye is detailed, and even his nostril has an interior gray spot. Both types of dapples are subtle without hard edges or runs. There is a great deal to be learned from this piece, even one hundred years after it was made.
Here is a very subtle and elegant answer to the dapple question, from Nymphenburg, sometime after 1915:
This is a modern piece, recently decorated by Horsing Around of the UK. Each factory has its unique flair in decoration, and it becomes readily identifiable to collectors. A little further down is a photo of this same mold, addressing the same color, as an example of the endless variety in approach.
Here are two more modern takes on the dapple concept. The pony on the left is a RW custom glazed by the late Anthony (of Alchemy and formerly, Royal Worcester) and the on the right is a dapple rose gray by myself, of about 2 years ago.
Although she was not entered at this show, this model was on my table as a sample. I custom glazed this model (same mold as the Horsing Around above) this year. I aimed for a nice blend of the old and the new, soft and yet detailed.
The Smooth Body Surface
What do you do when your model has a soft form? How do you make its few details "pop"? By selective shading, without compromising or muddying up the slip pigmentation. Here is a Hagen-Renaker Sespe Violette, with strategic directional shading on her withers wrinkles, throat wrinkles, and leg feathers. She dates around 1954-55. There are many more heavily shaded examples, several were at this show.
Here is a current release, a Callahan sculpted and glazed by Addalee Hude, which rises to the challenge with pattern detail, rather than relying on strategic shading alone.
Making a "Blah" Color Sing
Here is a lovely vintage example of what many collectors would call a "boring" color choice: a solid bay. The Royal Worcester "Mill Reef" edition translated a bay color, that could easily have been flat, into a chocolate enrobement that exalts the sculpture. True, it takes a little stylist side trip here and there, following some sharply delineated contours, but that speaks to their commitment to the original designer's concept. That's cool. Overall, the shading and application, and attention to detail (nostril interior sinus pink!), has volumes to teach modern glaze artists.
I saw many rare and beautiful models that I simply couldn't get to fast enough to photograph on the judging tables. I hope this little sampler inspires you to attend the next all-ceramic horse show near you, or at least look at the china classes at the next horse show with fresh eyes. So much thought and technical work goes into each piece, be it an edition or one-of-a-kind. The appreciation knows no bounds of time or nationality.