Porcelain originated in China, hence the common name for porcelain; China. As early as 100-200 CE, in the Han Dynasty, glazed ceramics were manufactured. During the Tang Dynasty, 618-906 , porcelain was exported to the Islamic world where it was of immense value. It took another couple of centuries before both the technique and products grew popularity in other areas. By the early seventeenth century, it was exported to Europe.
The Chinese managed to keep the production technique a secret for nearly a thousand years, adding to the value of porcelain. Geologist Ehrenfried von Tschirnhaus, who studied at the university of Leiden in the Netherlands, and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger managed to crack the code in 1708. The very first European porcelain factory was a fact in April of that same year. It opened its doors in Dresden, later opening shop in Meissen. Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH still exists today.
Originally used for table ware and decorative pieces; China soon became popular for other products such as toilet bowls, sinks and bath tubs, and later on even as base material for dental crowns. The material is sturdy, solid, water resistant if manufactured in the right way. The thinner material used for table ware tends to be more sensitive and prone to chipping and breaking. However, porcelain never gave in on popularity. To this day porcelain inspires designers and artists around the world. Astier de Villatte for one, as featured elsewhere on this site.
The German design company Schönbuch created a series of wall hooks made off porcelain plates and saucers. They range from 8 to 17 cm and cost around € 38,-
Canadian design duo Coe & Waito created a series of porcelain bottles inspired by the old bottles kids dig up when playing outside. The little bottles with creamy clear glazing are decorated with embellished platinum insects, weeds and dirt as if they were only just dug up. Each bottle is about 10 cm high and costs $68 Canadian dollars.
Australian ceramist Shannon Garson’s fragile yet elegant porcelain bowls were inspired by birds nests and other natural patterns.
UK designer Sarah Grove makes porcelain vases and jugs, but their surfaces look like they are upholstered with lace and feature textured textiles to suggest comfort and luxury.
A wonderful article in the New York Times’ travel pages online suggests a trip to Munich to visit the people that are responsible for this colourful set of porcelain cups (also seen in header of this article). They Are Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg located on the grounds of the baroque wet dream of Ludwig II; Herrenchiemsee Palace.