SUN CITY CENTER – For the fourth consecutive year, a Sun City Center artist dominated the china-painting competition at the Florida State Fair, bringing home the Best of Show award for a hand-painted serving tray and tea set.
In all, Best of Show winner Martha Klos and fellow members of the Sun City Center China Painters Club, Beverly Majewski and Peg Kinney, were awarded a dozen ribbons for their expertise in decorating pieces of glazed white porcelain.
It’s an art form that dates back to ancient times when early artists would spruce up everyday vessels with paints applied with feathers.
The techniques used back then aren’t all that different from the ones china painters use today, said Majewski, president of the Sun City Center club. Like artists in 1,000 B.C., today’s china painters create depth and detail by firing pieces in a kiln multiple times, adding layers of paint between firings.
It’s the depth of color and detail that attracted Klos to the art form.
“I was an oil painter for years,” she said. “But I had run out of room on my walls.”
She discovered china painting when she moved to Sun City Center four years ago and saw the work of club members at an open house.
“It looked like something I’d like to try so I read a lot about it and taught myself how to do it,” Klos said. “I just fell in love with it.”
While both oil painting and china painting require expertise with a brush, Klos said that’s the only similarity between the two art forms.
“There’s a big difference painting on china,” she said. “Canvases fade and crack, but china is forever. And the pieces often have practical uses, such as a tea set. Some pieces can even be put in the microwave.”
Year after year, the state fair judges have remarked on the detail of Klos’ pieces. She said that detail is achieved with layer upon layer of paint and repeated firings in the two kilns available in the club’s meeting room at the Sun City Center Community Association’s Central Campus, 915 Cherry Hills Drive, Sun City Center.
“The more layers, the more detail you get,” she said. “There are some pieces I’ve fired up to 15 times in the kiln.”
Depending on the detail, Klos may spend up to two weeks working on a single piece.
“I start early in morning and am sometimes painting until 6 p.m.,” she said.
The art of painting on china reached its height of popularity in the late 1800s and early 20th century when porcelain manufacturers in the Limoges region of France and the island of Nippon in Japan began selling blank glazed pieces to hobbyists.
“In modern times, the art form began fading,” said Klos. However, a renewed interest in “shabby chic” and romantic Victorian décor has sparked a resurgence in china painting, she said.
In Sun City Center, china painting has been a popular pastime since the club was formed 22 years ago.
“We’re considered a craft club but it’s hard to differentiate between a craft and an art when something is painted so exquisitely on porcelain,” said Majewski, a water and acrylic painter for years before discovering china painting two years ago.
The Sun City Center club currently has 30 members and provides a teaching session once a month for those interested in learning the art. The club room is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for any members who want to paint or fire pieces, as well as shoppers interested in purchasing pieces.
In addition to winning Best of Show at the Florida State Fair, Klos took home a first-place blue ribbon for her tea set and tray, a first-place blue ribbon for an umbrella stand decorated with animals, a second place ribbon for a framed porcelain piece of a lion and lamb, three other blue ribbons and one red.
Majewski was awarded a second-place ribbon for a mermaid painting along with ribbons for two vases.
And Kinney, a club member since its founding, received a third-place ribbon for a teapot she painted and two honorable mentions.
Members of the Sun City Center China Painters Club will have a variety of painted china pieces along with baked goods for sale at the annual Fun Fest on Saturday, March 15, at the Central Campus.
The club always welcomes new members. The annual membership fee is $10. For information, contact Majewski at (813) 633-8325.
D’Ann Lawrence is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]