This week I attended the last session of Ceramic Tile Painting in the Iznik Tradition taught by instructor Alfredo Ratinoff. Because it was the last session of the class, the students were very far along in completion of their final projects; each student had been working on a tile pattern that incorporated 2-4 tiles. The students all had created their own pattern taking inspiration from the aesthetic of traditional Iznik ceramic painting, spreading the pattern over multiple tiles to allow a more complete understanding of the Iznik design process. The class atmosphere was extremely relaxing, with classical music playing quietly in the background and hot tea being served. Each student worked quietly at their station, focused on the intricate details of their pattern.
Although I was attending the very last class and thus witnessing the final stage of the semester, and very impressed with the outcome I might add, I got to learn a little more about the process that led the students to where they are today. The fall semester began with lessons about the Iznik tradition and aesthetic, which originates from Turkey and was influenced by Chinese porcelain. Alfredo taught the students the basic principles of glazing, design, and the technique of outlining. They began with smaller projects to grasp the fundamentals, and eventually moved onto the all-encompassing project that they were working on at the time of my visit.
As I walked around the room observing the beautiful handmade tile patterns, I asked the students what they planned to do with their finished pieces. Some of the students were hoping to complete more tiles after the class so that one day they would be able to install the tiles in their home, while some wanted to give their tiles as gifts to friends and family. One of the great things about the class was that many of the students had returned year after year to continue to master their skills in ceramic painting, while others were first time students. Every time the students return to take the class, Alfredo has something new to teach them, while still covering the basics and helping the first time students get started.
Ceramics as well as ceramic painting is a beautiful process that incorporates the four elements: wind, water, earth, and fire. It is an ancient art that is rooted deep in tradition. As with many traditional arts, the act of creating is somewhat ritualistic, and therefore can be very relaxing. Alfredo Ratinoff invites anyone who is interested in the world of ceramics to attend his class. This winter he will be offering Introduction to Ceramic Painting: Mastering the Majolica Technique as well as Contemporary Mosaics. For more information on these and more studio arts classes offered by TSA, visit http://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/landing/studio-arts.aspx.