Robert Harrison

Honoring the WS Dickey Clay Mfg. Co. and the Mission Clay Products Co.

Posted on Saturday, November 1st, 2014

After my visit to the old WS Dickey clay pipe factory in Pittsburg, Kansas in March, 2014 (please see my web site news entry from April, 2014), I was commissioned to make a series of porcelain plates honoring the nearly 130 year history of clay pipe manufacturing, and to be given to specific long term employees of the factory.

*I have been collaging with visual images since I was very young. My decal, china paint and lustered surfaces began in the early 1970’s after seeing an exhibition of Howard Kottler plates while majoring in ceramics at undergraduate school.


I started with a request for copies of the architectural plans for the beehive kilns. I had ceramic decals made of selected kilns, and augmented them with decals of images of clay pipe products.


I begin the process by laying down a wash of china paint on the glazed porcelain surface of the plate. The plates are repetitively fired to cone 017. Then I begin laying down the largest decals, and fire the plates again. Smaller decals are then worked into each plate surface, carefully assessing the space on each plate and looking for opportunities to create visual stories on the glazed porcelain surfaces, both front and back. Finally, numerous tiny gold luster brush strokes are added that follow the flow of the black china paint wash. A single plate might be fired as many as 6 times before the final result is achieved.


My challenge is to work with the space of the plates, create unique and visually dynamic surfaces while still leaving the visual interpretation of the imagery up to the viewer. By all accounts, the recipients were very pleased with my efforts.

**Working with both repurposed and recycled porcelain plates is part of my ongoing studio activity. I continue to make and purchase ceramic decals, growing my inventory of imagery constantly. Commissions with specific imagery available upon request.