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I *heart* Nippon

I *heart* Nippon

This creamer is known in the antiques world as a piece of Nippon porcelain. Nippon was the marking used for "Japan" between 1891 and 1921 for porcelain made for export to the United States and Europe, thus almost all Nippon pieces are dateable to that period. This creamer, with its heavy gold decoration probably dates from the middle of that period, probably 1909-1915. By WW1 tastes had changed to plainer, more subtle patterning, and thus Nippon from that period is not nearly as elaborate as it is from the earlier teens and pre-teens.

The decoration you see is called "Moriage" (pronounciation depends on who you ask.) It was basically slip (a slurry, liquified porcelain) applied to the unfired piece with something like a cake decorators' tool. The pieces were glazed, fired and painted (though not necessarily in that order.) and burnished (if there was gold decoration on the piece) and sent off to whereever it was going.

I was very lucky to acquire a set of steriograph views documenting the process of making Nippon porcelain in one of the factories outside of Tokyo in 1904. It is simply amazing just how these pieces were painted. They were painted in little rooms with low ceilings, and little girls no older than twelve, packed next to eachother on benches in front of long tables that were crammed with unfinished wares. They spent their day hunched over, working very closely and with very very small paint-brushes, painting and burnishing the porcelain. From all accounts, however, these girls seemed to enjoy their work and used the very minute piecework or hourly wages for trifles and blaringly bright cotton kimonos.

I can only say that it should humble people when they look at those photographs and then look at the amount of detail that went into each piece.

Why is it so hard nowadays to find people skilled with their hands?



Decorating paste #2 (for before baking):

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon milk
several drops food color

Mix all ingredients together and pipe onto unbaked cookies. Bakes to a flat finish.

PROS: Baked-on decorations integrate with the cookie, making cookies easy to stack and transport.

CONS: Dairy-based, not sure about shelf-life... Does not apply well with a paintbrush; works best piped, perhaps requiring (minimal) special tools for detail work. Wetter than decorator's paste #1 - maybe a little too wet...

Not significantly different from decorating paste #1 (don't know the function of milk in this recipe), though there seemed to be a little more spread. However, this may have been because it sat longer, was prepared later in the day when the room and oven were hotter, etc...

No particularly strong flavor or scent positive or negative, but would try substituting vanilla or other flavoring for the milk next time...

FURTHER NOTES: Made this recipe with vanilla flavoring instead of milk, added some ground ginger, and piped onto Gingerbread Cookies... Very nice look... Better flavor and scent, but does not bind well to gingerbread... Next variation: Use decorator paste recipe #1 (less liquid) with vanilla, ground ginger, and some form of sugar (granulated, confectioner's, molassas, or corn syrup) to aid in binding...

room decorator tool

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