Mary's Maiolica Arts

Basic Vine Work


This lesson covers a simple vine on a plate rim. The examples will use the colors typical of early period maiolica (pre-1500), Manganese and Copper Green. Various shades of blue are also appropriate for this style of vine. Similar vines (done in deep blue) can be found on the back side of complex 16th century pieces. This pattern is appropriate for use as feast gear for a historical reenactor with a 15th or 16th century persona. This type of pattern can still be found on modern commercially made maiolica.

This pattern will be painted with the assistance of guidelines transferred by using the pouncing technique onto a standard size plate. This guidelines are from a reusable paper compass pattern that divides a 360 circle into increments of 5.

More information about pattern transfer using pouncing is available in a previous lesson.  An image of a generic paper compass pattern is located on the patterns page.



Standard round unglazed low-fire bisque (cone 04) plate with a 1 inch rim


Hobby Colorobbia:


Banding wheel
Paint brushes
Pouncing tools
Glazed tile -- to use as a palette

Apply the Base Glaze

Gently stir the Arctic White glaze.  Brush two coats of glaze on both sides of a bisque plate.  Allow the glaze to dry between coats.  The painted white glaze should be about 1 millimeter thick.  Allow the glazed plate to dry thoroughly.

Plan the Decoration

  1. Divide the plate into even sections -- First center the plate on a banding wheel. Find and mark the center of the plate.  Place the generic pattern on the plate using a pin thru the center of the pattern. Pounce the generic pattern onto the glazed plate. Using the pounced pattern as a guide, mark a line every 30 so that the plate is divided into 12 even sections.
  2. Band Guidelines -- Band a line with a pencil to mark the edges of the decoration area on the rim of the plate.  Band a pencil line about 1/4 inch from the inside and outside edge of the rim to indicate the edges of the vine pattern. Also band a line in the middle of the rim. This will help mark the transition spot on the main stem of the vine.
  3. Sketch in basic vine -- Use a pencil to sketch in the basic vine. The vine will crest at the marked division lines (every 30).
  4. Finish sketching vine -- Draw a small 3/4 circle starting at each crest of the vine. It will take up almost 20. It will circle around and end at the banded pencil line marking the center of the rim.


Only one coat of underglaze is required when painting on top of the white glaze.  The colors are thinned with varying amounts of water depending on the usage and the color.  Small mistakes can be fixed.  To fix a mistake, first allow the painted underglaze to dry thoroughly.  Then, using a curved-blade utility knife, gently scrape off the underglaze.  Blow away the scraped off color or brush away using a soft mop brush.  If necessary, touch up the white glaze and let it dry thoroughly.


Banded lines will outline and define the decorated rim design.  Pour a small amount of Manganese on a palette and thin with water so that the color will flow from a brush.  Using a #4 liner paint brush, band a line along the outside edge of the plate.  Also band a line along the inside edge of the rim.  Pour a small amount of Copper Green on a palette and thin with water.  Paint a Copper Green band about 1/4 inch from the Manganese band on the inside edge of the rim.  Paint another Manganese band about 1/4 inch in from the Copper Green band.

Rim Decoration

Paint vine

Using a fine liner brush, paint the weaving part of the vine using thinned Manganese underglaze.  Using the same fine liner brush, paint the 3/4 circles with Manganese.

Paint foliage

The foliage is all painted with the Copper Green underglaze.  Copper Green is black before it is fired.  The fired color ranges from a pale turquoise to a deep metallic green depending on how much it is thinned with water.  The foliage will be painted using a #2 round brush. 

First, paint the flowers for the vine using 5 simple brush strokes. Second, paint a small tulip shape in the "v" formed by the vine.

The filling foliage is done free form.  When painting the fill foliage it is important to pay attention to the direction of the leaves.  The fill foliage should all "grow" the same direction.  The fill foliage is done with two simple brush strokes shaped like an "F".  After the fill foliage is complete along the vine, fill in any large blank areas with a floating "F" shaped piece of foliage.

Start of the fill foliage. Filling in the blank sections with "F" shaped foliage.


After the piece is painted, applying a clear glaze on top of the painted decoration is an optional step.  During the firing, the underglaze colors will sink into the white glaze.  After the firing, some of the underglaze colors may have a rough texture.  A thin application of clear glaze on top of the painted decoration will give a smooth glass like finish.  The clear glaze should be very thinly applied.  Too much glaze can result in firing flaws.  Ideally, the clear glaze should be applied with an airbrush, but the clear glaze can also be applied using a soft fan shaped ceramic glaze brush.  The piece should be allowed to dry thoroughly before firing.


Stilt the plate and fire in a kiln to cone 06 using a 15 to 20 minute hold.  The hold helps prevent small bumps in the finished surface.

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