Creating Your Fine Bisque Porcelain Horse From
The Lakeshore Collection, Ltd.
Hand-craftsmanship & artistry aren’t just buzzwords when it comes to Lakeshore Collection porcelain horses. Read and find out why how they’re made, and why what they’re made of makes them even more special!
Many are familiar with press-molding, or injection molding plastic horses that come out of the mold in one piece, ready to be cleaned & painted. But making a real fine bisque porcelain horse, not imitation “cold cast porcelain” or “porcelon” that has never seen the inside of a kiln, is much more difficult than other materials. There are many chances to fail, and only one chance to get many, many individual steps right.
But the resulting porcelain horse is a beautiful work of art that will retain its beauty for lifetimes of enjoyment. Real porcelain is the strongest & most durable of all art ceramics. A visit to any museum will reveal fine porcelain pieces hundreds of years old that look as beautiful & pristine as they day they were made—not so with plastic or resin, which can discolor, fade or become brittle.
True porcelain is slightly translucent, and true white, as opposed to off-white or ivory due to the special pure kaolin clay used. The hallmark translucence is unique to porcelain because it is “vitrified” at a very high heat during firing. Like melting sand to make glass, the clay is melted together to one non-porous piece, creating its legendary strength.
It is also valued for the toughness of the finish, which actually is fired permanently into the bisque porcelain itself, rather than sitting on top of the surface. This is why they resist scratches that send many a plastic or resin horse to the body box or scrap heap. You actually have to chip into the surface of our real porcelain horses to get the finish off. As many have seen Lakeshore Collection founder & owner, Cindy Neuhaus do, scraping or rubbing---even with a knife or key--won’t remove the finish of the horse, but frequently does remove the plated finish of the key!
And fine bisque porcelain, “the real thing” is more of a challenge to work with than other materials. Plastic and resin model horses can come out of a mold in one piece, and even many earthenware horses, because the material has a little give, and pieces can be gently moved back into the correct position after unmolding. This isn’t the case with real porcelain because it’s too brittle and ears, legs & tails would break off.
Because the unfired porcelain is stiff like leather, but brittle, so can break just being removed from the mold, each individual body section must be separately molded. So the first step is to cut the actual artist sculpture into around 12 different pieces, of body sections, legs, ears, tails, etc.
A separate clay mold (negative) is then made for each & every bit, section & piece! These individual molds are used to make the master molds, also called blocks, which contain several sections of the horse, from which production molds, also called waste molds, are made.
Production or waste molds are made by pouring liquid clay into the master molds, letting most of the water evaporate out so the mold sections can be safely removed, and then kiln-firing the waste mold sections.
The waste molds must be porous so that water can evaporate out of the liquid porcelain (called “slip”) that will actually become pieces of the horse. But since they’re porous, waste molds can only be used a few times before being thrown away so detail on the finished horses is always as crisp as it is on the master mold. So this means that the hard master mold blocks, which don’t lose detail, are used to make many sets of waste molds.
The porcelain slip is different than earthenware & other art ceramics. It is made of very “fine serial” kaolin clay that captures every tiny detail the sculptor intended, mixed with water to about the consistency of gravy. The slip is poured into all the waste mold sections, and left to dry until enough water evaporates out so each piece can be removed without breaking, bending or falling apart.
Then all the dozen or so pieces of the horse are put together entirely by hand! All of the mold lines where the sections meet must also be smoothed off by hand, before it undergoes its first high-heat firing, also known as the bisque fire, where the magic of vitrification takes place.
But the magic is also dangerous—real porcelain gets softer before it gets harder, just as sand does when being melted to make glass! All that body weight on long, skinny legs, are why you hardly ever see real porcelain horses instead of those made of other materials---with weight, heat, pressure & gravity, they want to collapse! To prevent this, the horses need a porcelain scaffolding of rods, called stilts, constructed around & under it.
After the bisque fire, even with all the precautions about 15-20% don’t meet our tough inspection standards and are thrown away!
The bisques then begin the process of hand-painting & additional heat firings. Cold (non-fired) paints sit on the surface without permanently bonding & can chip or rub off. Cold paints from the same batch also dry with little variation so painters can touch up any missed spots or “goofs” on a plastic or resin horse without it being noticeably different.
But we use special china paints and glazes applied in layers & heat fired so they actually fire into the surface and this gives us a finish that is so tough and durable you’d actually have to break or chip it, or use sandpaper to scratch it!
These paints & glazes are not at all consistent like house paint or food coloring because they are made of finely ground natural materials like clay, silica, mica, minerals & pigments. These ground particles are mixed with an emulsifier, usually oil-based, so they can be hand-applied like paint.
Because the glazes are made of natural materials and are heat-fired, it’s not nearly as simple as just letting paint dry. Colors can and do change just by being fired, and the same glaze from the same batch can turn a different shade again just by firing it a second time or at a slightly different temperature. This makes it virtually impossible to touch up mistakes, because you’d end up with two noticeably different shades, and even more are scrapped!
No machine can match skilled artists and produce such beautifully-shaded, quality, realistic work; therefore, each and every Lakeshore piece is entirely hand-painted.
All this care and uncommon attention to detail ensures your fine bisque porcelain Lakeshore Collection horse will provide you with a lifetime of beauty and enjoyment and also can be be handed down and treasured for generations to come!
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