Barbara Strzepka and her Porcelain Paintings
Presenter: Barbara Strzepka
Barbara Strzepka will present a program on her porcelain paintings on Wed., Apr. 17. The meeting will be held at the Harlem Road Community Center, 4255 Harlem Road, Snyder, and it will begin at 7:30 PM. Admission is free for members and a $5 donation is requested of non-members.
A former art teacher, Ms. Strzepka will talk about the technique of porcelain painting and will show specimens of her work, including pictures of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Wyszynski, and several Polish Madonnas as well as pictures of pisanki.
Ms. Strzepka's paintings represent a number of shapes and a range of size. Some paintings are so small that they can fit into a piece of jewelry. On the other hand, she has also painted portraits, vases, and boxes. Polish themes, however, are consistently present throughout her work.
Barbara is proud of the work that she and her American colleagues do because they are true craftsmen who work on each of their individual items from beginning to end. She suspects that many in Western New York do not realize that American porcelain paintings are not like those from Europe where individual items are made in factories with many different workers being responsible for only one detail as an item arrives on a conveyor belt. As a matter of fact, much of the “hand-painted” dinnerware from Europe is really decorated with decals with only one detail actually being hand painted. “They get away with it by painting the gold edge; as long as they paint the gold edge they can get away with putting on the back 'hand painted'”, Ms. Strzepka said. Her own pieces are, in fact, entirely hand-painted.
Ms. Strzepka acknowledged that she does not make her own porcelain. She purchases pieces of porcelain blanks instead. But then, she paints images on them with “mineral colors”, such as iron, gold, cobalt, tin, each mineral yielding a different color. She makes her paint by grinding the mineral and mixing it with an oil. Then she applies a thin layer on the porcelainand“fires” the painted porcelain to a temperature between 1300 and 1600 degrees Fahrenheit in one of three kilnsin her basement workshop. The layer of paint needs to be thin so that it will fuse together with the glaze on the porcelain. If the paint is too thick, she said, it could chip off and take the glaze with it and ruin the piece of porcelain. It is also necessary to fire the porcelain a number of times.
There are many different techniques and materials that the porcelain artist has”, she continued. These include pen work, etchings, lusters (like mother of pearl), gold and platinum. She will discuss these in some detail during her presentation.
“What I like about my painting”, she said, “is that I can hang it on the wall, framed, and it will be permanent, it will not fade, and it will not discolor or darken”. “Have you ever seen an oil painting of the Black Madonna that is very dark?”, she asked. “Oil gets dark with age.” Porcelain will never do that.
Ms. Strzepka has a bachelor's degree in education from Buffalo State College and she was an art teacher in the West Seneca school district for 37 years. She studied under Ola Hoppie and Irene Wojda in Buffalo. In addition, she also attended summer workshops at a school in North Carolina where she studied under Margaret Winborn from Texas and Kay Gotschalk from New Orleans. Ms. Strzepka is a Certified Master Artist of Porcelain Painting and she belongs to several state, national, and international associations of porcelain artists.