CATEGORY: Monroe County


HED:Aberdeen woman turns the ordinary into extraordinary

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN - The Victorian touches on painted plates, lamp shades, tea sets and tiles look like they have always belonged in the 1890s home in Aberdeen.

Kimmel Place, with its 13-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and ornate woodwork and mantles, is a typical Victorian-style home.

To make the image complete, owner Jean Payne has added her own touches - hand-painted porcelain pieces she has made in the last 22 years.

From the tiniest thimble to large porcelain vases, Payne has painted it all.

"I paint everything," Payne said.

The hand-painted lamp shades with crystal drops flank either side of an 18th century sofa in her front parlor.

A tea set sits on a bamboo tray in the guest bedroom.

Bookcases and china cabinets are filled with her works, along with antique pieces she has collected.

Plates of various sizes and shapes hang on plate racks on the walls.

Payne even keeps her work close to her heart. Around her neck hangs a gold chain with a porcelain medallion painted with roses, her favorite subject to paint.

A new love

Payne, who has three children, said she began painting fine china after she had her last child.

"I decided to do something," she said. "I started painting with two older ladies."

The 66-year-old Virginia native said she took lessons from both for about four years before she started teaching students herself. When Jean and her husband, Beck, retired to North Carolina she continued her work with porcelain. From 1988 to 1996, Payne taught porcelain painting at Halifax College in North Carolina.

She is a member of the International Porcelain Art Teachers, the World Organization of China Painters and the Virginia Artist club. Payne's work also has won best in the state for North Carolina in the World Convention.

Payne continued her passion for porcelain after she moved to Aberdeen about a year ago to be near her daughter, Pamela Edwards. She also decided she wanted to use her time to catch up on projects she wanted to do for herself.

A quaint yellow building located in the back of her immaculate back yard holds shelves of blank china, or unpainted china.

Passion for porcelain

The shelves and boxes filled with the white unfinished works wait for Payne's artistic touch.

There are unpainted tea pots, bowls, plates, thimbles, jam jars and boxes. Most of the items Payne paints on are the plain white glazed pieces she purchased from European companies. Payne also can make her own pieces from molded bisque.

"If I painted every day until I die I still won't be able to get it all painted," Payne said. "It is like an obsession when you get started painting."

When Payne paints a piece, she'll make sure the piece and studio are completely devoid of dust.

She then applies the first coat of paint, which is a mix of oil and dry mineral powder.

This first coat is the "lightest" coat of paint and takes about 30 minutes.

She then fires the piece in a kiln for about three hours. The piece is cooled for six hours before more paint is added. The second painting is more detailed than the first and can take about an hour to do, she said.

The third coat is for the decorative and final touches. Payne said there have been times when she has added more paint and additional firings. Payne has five different kilns of various sizes to use for different pieces.

As she paints, she twists the brush in oil before dabbing it on her paint. When she paints bigger pieces she uses a movable easel that spins or can remain stationary. Smaller pieces are held in her hand.

Sharing a gift

In addition to making pieces for herself and friends, Payne also takes orders for pieces, which can range from $5 to $100 or more depending on the piece, design or the type of china.

Interest in china painting dates back to the Tang dynasty, which stretched from A.D. 618 to 906 in China. From there, the art form spread to Europe as pieces of painted porcelain were transported from China.

The practice was perfected in France and Germany as well as England.

Payne said in the late 1800s the art of painting china became popular in the United States.

The resurgence of china painting also became popular after World War I and World War II, when obtaining imported china was difficult. Since the 1950s, the art has been gaining in popularity, Payne said.

Clubs began to develop in the 1950s.

"We have really grown," she said.

Kathy Bailey, director of the Evans Memorial Library, coordinated the artists who took part in a recent demonstration project in Aberdeen. One of the artists chosen for the demonstration was Payne.

"China painting was a traditional pastime for women in particular and with the introduction of Judy Chicago's art installation called the "Dinner Party," china painting has captured the attention of contemporary art," Bailey said. "And we were glad to feature this traditional women's art process (at the Antiques, Arts and Arbor Show in Aberdeen.)"

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