Sunday, June 13, 2021



Friday, May 14, 2021

Historical color wheels, modern color charts - and the use of both in ceramic glazes

During my studies in Aalto University I took color studies as a mandatory course. Back then I thought that my color knowledge was a natural skill and I was interested only in ceramics, rather than art theory. Ceramics was an interesting subject and I was with my nose in the books and magazines especially covering material studies. I wasn’t super stoked when cutting and rearranging colored papers at the class, but something stayed: color mixing. Later in my studies I started to mix colors in  ceramic glazes. When I started to write this essay/blog post I was amazed how many of the color wheels and other form color charts resembled the suggestions and charts on how to achieve glaze colors in a systematic order.

I have used glaze diagrams when creating my palette of over 350 different glaze colors, all of which have been achieved with a systematic working system by charts with exact percentages. In ceramics, the color metal oxides and stains bring the color to the glazes. Chromium oxide must be the second most well known (cobalt) color metal oxide since it was found in Sèvres factory near Paris and the factory has taken notes of almost everything they invented. 1 Chromium brings green (or when mixed with glaze that is content with zinc, it brings khaki colours, or with tin oxide - pink hues). With cobalt, chromium brings teal tones. The contemporary stabilized stains bring the untypical colors for ceramics from bright red to yellow. 2 The history of the stains dates back to the 18 century in France, where the color metal oxides were calcined in kilns in order to achieve stable underglazes and china paints. 3

When I researched my way deeper into the history of color theory - the times before Goethe, Itten, and Albers - I was amazed how many of the color charts (contrast to wheels) resemble charts that will guide you how to achieve the maximum amount of colors in a systematic order. I will consider the history of color wheels, but also the other types of color charts, and I will tell you how to achieve as many colored glazes in one glaze base as possible. It is easy, but labourful.


The first known color wheel was by a Finnish priest, Aron Sigfrid Forsius, dated 1611. He had a list of professions as a true renaissance man: he was also an astronomer, an astrologist, a nature philosophist, a poet and a regular handyman in science. He also published the first Finnish calendars. 4 “Among the colors, there are two primary colors, white and black, of which all the others originate.” Forsius agreed with Leonardo da Vinci, who, over 100 years before Forsius, counted black and white among the primary colors. Although, da Vinci counted yellow, red, blue and green into the primary colors as well. 5 The Forsius’ chart is organized so that the colors are either closer to white or black. The system ought to represent a globe. Later we will see another globe by another color theorist, by Philipp Otto Runge, which resembles a lot like Forsius’. 



Year 1615 flemish physician Franciscus Aguilonius or François d’Aguilon created a straight line - a color theory chart, where black (niger), white (albus), and primary colors yellow (flavus), red (rubeus) and blue (caeruleus) meet bringing secondary colours orange (aureus), violet (purpureus) and green (viridis). 6


Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist and a philosopher.  7 who created the first color wheel year 1666. He was testing with prisms and invented “ROY G BIV” colors (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet). By the tests he made, a theory was created that the primary colours were red, yellow and blue, of which all the other colours are possible to be made. Although, I wasn’t until the  print technique was developed in the 18th and in the beginning of the 19th century when the primary colors became established. Before Newton, arab Ibn Alhazen (965-1039), fransicane Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253) and an alchemist Roger Bacon (1220-92) were testing with prisms. (Arnkil, 2007, s.20)


Richard Waller created this color chart in 1670’s and it was published in 1686 as “Tabula colorum physiologica tam mixtorum quam simplicium”. It reminds me of basic studies in painting where oil paints are mixed in a diagram, each color with each color. As well, the similar chart can be found in ceramics, where each colored base glaze is mixed with each colored glaze. In the Waller’s chart “Blue bice (montanum)” is the second color on the left side on the first row and “Cambodia (gutta gambae)” is third downwards on the left hand column. The mixture is “Popinjay green”. 8

The way of mixing colors resembles the so-called Methode 50/50 chart, where each colored laze is mixed with each one. The colorants in the glazes can be either stains or color metal oxides - and I would recommend you to use both since it is the most rewarding to get as many colors as possible. Remember to add primary colors as well as secondary colors. Any colorant will do, the more the better. We are thinking about the maximum results here. The chart advises to blend each colored glaze with 50/50 ratio to a clear base glaze but you can skip that. The saturation can be tested better with a linear blend, of which we will discuss later in the post. 


Claude Boutet was a French painter from 1700’s. He’s known for writing a “Traite de la Peinture en Mignature” which was published in 1708 where he had drawn chromatic color wheels. The color wheels are considered the oldest. 9 There’s only a few variations in Boutet’s and Newton’s color wheels. 


In the 1700's several scientists and artists were inspired by chromatic wheels and published their own inventions. Jacob Christian Schäffer, a natural scientist and an inventor, published figures that varied color wheels. The figures describe primary and secondary colors. He also was experimenting with prisms and lenses, but is still more known as a latin name for fungi and plants 10: Schaeff means Schäffer. 11

Ignaz Schiffermüller

Another natural scientist was playing with prisms, as can be seen from the illustration for his color wheel. Schiffermüller took influences from Newton's color wheel and tried to prove it correct. His attempt was to achieve the colors of the rainbow. 12


Tobias Mayer’s triangle is an alternative for color wheels. Published in 1775, the three colors (cinnibar, massicot ja azurite) 13 and their combinations bring new colors: secondary colors on the edges of the triangle and other hues in the middle. 

The triaxial blend chart will give the exact percentages and the systematic order of the mixing of three different colorants. It is possible to use primary colors (stains) on the ends of the triangle so that the edges will show secondary colors. Unfortunately color metal oxides don’t bring primary colors but for example choosing chromium and cobalt as colorants, it will bring lovely teals on the one edge of the triangle - from chromium green to cobalt blue.

I tried the triaxial blend by choosing three colored glazes from the results of my 50/50. A red stain together with grey stain brought a lovely light pink, a blue green stain together with iron oxide brought a green glaze and the same blue green with cerium oxide brought light blue. When I joined these colors into a triaxial blend, I received multiple hues of purple in the middle of the triangle.

Moses Harris published "The Natural System of Colours" in 1766. In his research he concentrated on the three primary colors and, as an entomologist and graphic artist, 14 he was interested in the relations and the formation of the colors. He explained that the three primary colors can be mixed to achieve 660 different colors. He also introduced the secondary colors: orange, green and violet. He suggested that the three colors would bring black, but it was noticed to be a very dark brown. His relations towards the color white was that it was the absence of color. He thought that Newton's color wheel and his tests with prisms were separate of what he was doing, since he was concentrating on the colors of the nature, not the prism. 15

As a painter, Philipp Otto Runge was also interested in colors and their chromatic blending. He suggested that there would be only three colors: yellow, red and blue, as he wrote in his letter to Goethe in 1806. He began to mix colors in a three dimensional form by blending them with white and black. His manuscript from 1808 was about his color sphere but also about color harmony.

Ceramic artist Gwendolyn Yoppolo has created several color wheels by using colored glazes. She gave a lecture about the subject at NCECA 2021 virtual conference. 

Mary Gartside brought a well wished female point of view to the color theory. She was an English aquarelle artist and color theorist. She published three books between 1805 - 1808. She can be considered as a meaningful color theorist between Moses Harris and Goethe, although her theory was published in disguise as an aquarelle manual. 

Goethe references Mary Gartside's theory in his publication “Theory of Colours”. She inspired Goethe especially in color combinations, in the meaning of the light and the shade when it comes to the hues, and the eye as a central position in color perception. Gartside herself references Newton and Moses Harris. 

The classification of the colors in warm, cold and light shades and, so forth, the harmony of the hues was essential for Gartside's painting and her color theory. She wrote books “An Essay on Light and Shade” 1805, “Ornamental Groups, Descriptive of Flowers, Birds, Shells, Fruit, Insects etc” 1808 and her first with a new name “An Essay on a New Theory of Colours”. 17

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe did a research on the emotional effects of colors. He published “Zur Farbenlehre” in 1808 and two years later the “Geschichte der Farbenlehre”. On the contrary to Newton’s theory, which tried to solve out the physical essence of the color, Goethe did research on how to perceive colors. The colors that the eye perceives were central to Goethe, not the colors achieved with the prism. The chemical colors (objective colors) that are attached to the objects were separated as their own sub genre. According to Goethe, the color is off the matter interacting with pure white light. 18

In Goethe’s book there are color tests, which are theory in practice. In the assignments Goethe concentrates on observation and the physiological colors. (Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Goethen värioppi, Ensimmäinen osa, Fysiologiset värit, Suomen Antroposofinen Liitto, Helsinki, 1980)

The primary colors for Goethe are, naturally, blue, red and yellow. Also the secondary colors, green, orange and violet are among the colors in the color wheel. In Newton’s prism and his theory the color white is the sum of all the colors, but Goethe thought that gray is the sum of light and shade. 

Goethe was also interested in after images, in so-called chromatic memory, and the simultane contrast, as in, the colors side by side and their reaction to each other. Goethe added adjectives for the colors to describe the emotional load of the colors, such as beautiful (schön, red), noble (edel, orange) good (gut, yellow), useful (nützlich, green), common (gemein, blue), useless (unnöthig, violet). 19

Gothe’s research was used even in Bauhaus, as Walter Gropius, Itten and Albers used his teachings in their own color theories. 20

Bauhaus’ own Johannes Itten did research with the contrasts of the colors on his own and together with his students. (Itten, Johannes, Värit taiteessa, Kustannus Oy Taide, 2004, s. 5) Itten was influenced by Adolf Hözel and Goethe’s color thinking. Hözel was an abstract painter, who did his abstract works well before Wassily Kandinsky, who has been rewarded as the first abstract painter. 

When Itten taught in Bauhaus in 1919-1920 he created the seasonal color analysis for fashion and cosmetics. The colors are divided into four types, as seasons. 21 He did color harmony tests with his students and came to a conclusion: light haired and blue eyed are drawn to clear colors and strong color differences. On the other hand dark skinned and featured form their colors by tinting them with black. (ibid. s. 24) I am not sure if those differences hold true, but anyway that is how he invented the seasonal color analysis. 

He also created the twelve part color wheel, because he thought that every artist should observe their colors in the exact way a musician hears the twelve notes on a scale. (ibid. s. 32) Itten tells in his book that Goethe, Bezold, Chevreul and Hözel have shown the color contrasts, but he saw that there was a lack in literature. So he would write them down and define them as follows: 1. the contrast of different colors 2. comparison of light and dark 3. cold and warm 4. opposite colors 5. simultaneous contrast 6. saturation 7. amount (ibid. s.33)

In his book (suom. Värit taiteessa, 2004) Itten tells in detail how the color contrasts work and how to work with them. He introduces a 12 part color star, where the colors blend with black and white, and also a color sphere, similar, what we have already seen with Philipp Otto Runge.

Pentaxial blend is a sum of five triaxials. Allison Cochran has created the systematic chart with underglazes by using primary and secondary colors.


Albert Munsell developed the first coded color catalog in 1910’s. 22 I believe that many of us have tried the internet phenomenon of Munsell’s hue test. On the contrary to Tobias Mayer’s theory that curated the colors to those that the eye can easily perceive, Munsell’s color chart tests the eye. 

The way of blending colors reminds me of the linear blend of two colored glazes. Originally the linear blend was invented to test the intensity of a colored glaze. It works so that on the left side you have your uncolored base glaze and on the right side you have the colored glaze of the same base. But you can rethink it: choosing two single colorant glazes on each end, or two two-colorant glazes from the 50/50 chart, or two different base glazes with as many colorants as you want.

As I have tried the quadraxial blend, and been frustrated by it, since it is not the easiest blend, I developed my own mixing chart, because I wanted to achieve as many colors as possible by a single go. To my surprise it does resemble a lot of Munsell’s hue test. The colored glaze A is mixed horizontally with color C and also down with color B, so that color A will be mixed also with color D, in ¼ ratio, in the middle of the in the middle row. It’s quite easy, it’s just hard to explain. 


“If somebody says red - - and there’s 50 people in the room, it can be assumed that in their minds they see 50 different reds. One can be sure that all of these reds are different.” (Albers, Josef, Formulation: Articulation, Thames & Hudson, Lontoo, 2006 , s. 21)

Josef Albers’ quote crystallizes the subjectivity of his color theory. 

As a Bauhausian and former student of Itten, Josef Albers taught in Weimar and in Dessau from 1923 on, until natzis closed Bauhaus and he moved to the United States to teach first in North Carolina and later in Yale. Although Albers was a craft and design teacher, he also did research on color theory and used the research in his abstract paintings “Homage to the Square”. In 1963 he published his book “Interaction of Color” where he concentrated on experiencing and perceiving the color. The book had influences from constructivists and the Bauhaus movement but the influence of the books was strongest in American art in the 1960's especially in Op art and concept artists. 23

“Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon — it is the very heart of painting.“ 24

Albers' quote defines his artistic work.

In his books (suom. “Värien vuorovaikutus”, 1979) Albers concentrates on color theory and the book is one of the main sources in art education. The introduction of the book sheds light in Albers relation towards color: color is not just a physical, but also a psychological phenomenon, because color is what we see, not what it physically is. (s.7) The book says that Albers’ color theory is experimental and color is the most relatively approachable thing in art. (s. 11). The rest of the book is about cutting and rearranging color papers in different ways, such as achieving to make the same colors look different by changing the background colors, making different colors look similar, and the transparency illusion. He also introduces the Bezold effect (optical blending) and Weber-Fechner’s law (saturation).


The world famous Pantone was founded in New Jersey in the 1950's by two brothers who started a printing company M & J Levine Advertising. They hired Lawrence Herbert who eventually bought the company and named it as Pantone. 24

Pantone has succeeded to create a graphic designers’ and printing houses’ trusted company, a one of a kind color guide and a brand. You can use Pantone when searching for the glaze colors that you want. Sometimes you can find the right colors in the glazes you received in the 50/50 test tiles or you might need to start finding the right hues with linear, triaxial or by your own systematic invention.

Read more: The Pantone chart of glazes

Thursday, April 29, 2021



I am part of this virtual art exhibition that The Holy Art London is having April 28 - May 5 2021. My works are in the Exhibition Room III on the first wall!

"Veera Tamminen debuted with her first solo exhibition “Po & Po (Polaroid & Porcelain)” 2015 in Gallery Katariina's Studio for Helsinki Artists' Association and she has had four solo exhibitions in total solemnly in Helsinki.

Her works have been exhibited in several group exhibitions both abroad and in her homeland. She was one of the four young ceramic artists exhibiting at Arabia Art Society's Gallery in 2013 and she was a part of a juried ceramics exhibition at the Ludwigsburg castle, Germany, 2014. She was participating in the exhibition of Finnish contemporary ceramic art at Helsinki Designmuseum in 2014-2015.

Her art covers aspects of consciousness, mind envy, and psyche, also psychosis and domestic violence. Sometimes smoking, but always of the structures of the mind."

The artworks above are for sale for £217. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Saturday, April 3, 2021


I have added a new section to my web shop Piece of dab, where you can buy my artworks.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021

Venus brooches at Piece of dab SHOP

Venus brooches available at Piece of dab porcelain shop. These brooches were exhibited at the Louvre in a performative piece I did back in 2014. Brooches are made out of porcelain and china painted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

History of porcelain (in close relations of how it arrived to Finland)

(based on a book Antiikkiposliini Suomessa by T. Tarna, 2012)

Cobalt blue
In the 900th century blue appeared as an ornament in Persian faience, where the cobalt was found. They transported it to China, where the workshops produced blue porcelain for Mid Eastern markets in 1300's. In 1602 the Netherlands took the European market as their own when the East Indian Company was founded. Only royals could afford porcelain. Kristiina, the queen of Sweden, had 300 cobalt blue porcelain objects. The blue and white ware was a ruling style in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

For those who don't know, Finland was under Sweden rule from 12th century until 1809.

In order to show is porcelain collection Ludwig XIV ordered a Trinanon de porcelaine for the gardens of Versailles, which was an example for the chinoiserie fashion. Sweden had their own East Indian Compnany as well in 1731-1813 and they shipped 132 cargos of Chinese objects to Göteborg harbor. First the objects were merely for decorative purposes but around 1700 they shipped metal prototypes and drawings since so they could show what kind of tableware was used in European kitchen. Because of the Swedish East Indian Company now also the upper class could afford porcelain such as tea and coffee sets. Famille rose ware became famous in 1730's in the Rococo era.

Cousins Sweden's king Kustaa III and Russian empress Katariina II did politics with porcelain gifts in 1777. Chinoiserie was still in fashion: pavilions and tearooms were built in castles all over Europe.

Famille rose
Chinese name for Famille rose ware is 'yangcai' for foreign colours or 'fencai' for pale colours. Famille rose is decorated in European style in pink. The gold chloride which was used in the pink enamels was found by German Andreas Cassius in 1670 in Leyden. (Qing Porcelain – famille verte, famille rose, M. Beurderley, G. Raindre, 1987, s. 90-91)

First porcelain
In 600's the Chinese added first kaolin into their clay body and fired it higher. In Japan, thousand years later, in early 1600 because of Korean masters. Europeans started to order Japanese illustrations (imari) on Chinese porcelain ware in 1730.

In Europe the ceramic manufactures, and even emperors, tried to buy the recipe for porcelain from the Chinese but they needed to make research on their own. Germany succeeded first. The manufacture in Meissen was founded 1710 and they were ready for production in four years. The china painters had 16 colours, and after imitating Japanese Kakiemon -flowers the Viennese master painter Johann Gregorius Höroldt started to paint German flowers in 1730. 

Although, Germany was first to achieve porcelain, the French were first to find chromium and to add it in chinapaints, stains, underglazes and glazes. The Germans didn't until 1814. The French found porcelain in 1740.

La maladie de porcelaine
Ludwig XV gave Sèvres porcelain as political gifts, and so, he gave Kustaa III a turquoise bird set in 1771. Empress of Russia Katariina II made an order from Sèvres and it was the most expensive tableware set in 1778 of which 600 pieces were ready before the French Revolution. After the revolution Napoleon ordered the factory to make empire objects. In Finland the porcelain sets became usual in mansions and among the bourgeois in the late 1800th century. In 1975 and 1980 queen of Denmark Margareeta and the government followed the tradition of giving gifts and gave president of Finland Urho Kekkonen Flora Danica -service as a birthday present.

Cocoa and coffee sets
Cocoa was first of the indulge-stimulants to arrive in Europe from South America. The cup for that warm drink, which even doctors recommended for trembles, had two handles and a trembleuse. Coffee came second, from Ethiopia via the Islamic world in the 1500's. In royal courts coffee became a thing after the Turkish ambassador brought it to the French court. Ludwig XV started his morning with coffee and soon after it was enjoyed during the day. Porcelain sets were made for one (déjeuner solitaire) or for two (tête-a-tête). Both Vicennes and Sèvres had those coffee sets in their collection. In the 1830's Sèvres brought a three storey cake plate to the markets when coffee drinking became more social. In Finland the high class drunk coffee from the early 1700's. The coffee sets used in Finland were brought by the Swedish East Indian Company, the sets being the major import. The European handles for the cups were attached in the mid 1700's. In Sweden, coffee tea and cocoa was banned in 1756. 

In his book, Tarna describes a couple of movements within porcelain manufacture with a soup tureen. The tureen was the center of the table setting and was brought to the tables after Ludwig XIV court's dining fashion, service á la francaise. The rococo tureens had vegetable and game decorative details and they described what kinds of stews they were serving. The tureens were ordered from China and the East Indian Companies brought them to Europe. In the 18th century the Northern style of kustavilaisuus (after European neoclassicism) brought more simplified decorations.

Porcelain and decal transfers in England
The manufacture of porcelain in England begun in three factories in the mid 18th century. Whereas the factories in France and Germany were under the royal rule, the English factories were established by businessmen. Soon, the hand painted decorations were yielded because of ceramic transfers. Also the forms were changing for the decals, as simpler and less curvy. Josiah Spode invented bone china for production in 1793. The English methods were used in the Swedish Gustafsberg porcelain factory.

High tea
The East Indian Companies in Netherlands, in Sweden, and in England brought tea from Canton, China. During Autonomy in Finland, after Russian example, all classes started to drink tea. The tea sets were made in Russia. 

A remarkable industry man at his time, Peter Johan Bladh, an politician and a economist, got into a board of Swedish East Indian Company as a solemn Finn. He joined four times for the Göteborg-Canton sails. He worked for the Company for 20 years.

Rörstrand founded Arabia factory in Helsinki in 1873, and Arabia bought Rörstrand in 1927. First the factories manufactured the same collection of tableware. The goal was to get to the Russian markets. In the beginning of 20th century Arabia started to make their own designs. Copper plate transfers were the main method for decoration but also hand painted lines. In 1942 Friedl Kjellberg found how to create rice porcelain ware.

Russian porcelain
Kuznetsov factory porcelain ware were sold in their own shops in Finland in the turn of the centuries. The Imperial Porcelain Factory (after the Revolution Lomonosov Porcelain Factory) solved out the secret recipe for porcelain in 1744. Sculptors and decorative painters graduated from St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and they were hired to the factory. The production of the National tableware Gurijev begun in 1809 during Aleksanteri I reign, although the factory was the busiest during Nikolai I reign, since services were ordered for coronations and several palaces. 

The first private porcelain factory Gardner was founded in 1766 by English timber sales man Fransis J. Gardner, but was later sold as a part of Kuznetsov corporation. Sales man Alexei Popov bought a porcelain factory in 1811, that was founded by Karl Melli, who had worked at Gardner. The factory had their own laboratory for finding glazes and stains. In the 19th century there were several porcelain factories. The Kuznetsov factories got the Grand Prix from Paris Exhibition Universelle in 1900 and the Imperial suppliers title in 1902.

The National Museum of Finland has one of the worlds largest collection of Russian porcelain outside of Russia, over 1100 objects.