Jeanette Wriedt of rural Kiel sits down at the table in her sunroom and opens a thin box, revealing a palette of paints with names like celadon green, forget-me-not blue and Rynne pink, dabs of pretty colors she has mixed to paint beautiful pictures on china.
She reaches for a tiny white dish and selects just the right brush from the assortment she keeps within grasp. Then, with a picture of a blue bird propped up in front of her, she carefully rolls her brush into a smudge of blue paint and begins.
“I like the look of pretty dishes,” says Jeanette by way of explanation as to why she has continued to pursue this hobby for the past 27 years, “and I like painting. You’re in your own little world.”
Jeanette was shopping at the mall in Sheboygan one day in 1986 when she first encountered china painting. A woman had a booth set up with her exquisite, hand-painted china pieces on display. Jeanette and her husband, Myron, had recently retired from cheese making, so she had time on her hands. She inquired about lessons and thereby embarked on a hobby that would lead to the creation of the hand-painted masterpieces she displays in her rural home, lanterns painted with delicate roses in multi-shades of pinks and greens, tea pots with sprays of berries and flowers, plaques and plates with robin’s nests, hollyhocks and chrysanthemums. The designs look so real, they seem to lift off the plate.
Actually, Jeanette has always been interested in art, ever since she attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse in Millersville, a tiny town just south of Howards Grove that was eventually annexed into the village. Though there was only one teacher for all grades, art was a part of the curriculum for every student. And that’s where Jeanette realized her love of art. It was a form of self-expression. Later, she found that outlet through sewing, too, a craft she learned in 4-H. Many other craft forms followed.
Back when Jeanette was a beginner in china painting, attending classes in Sheboygan, her teacher allowed her to trace her designs onto a piece, but as she became more advanced, she had to do her painting freehand. That way, even if she copied a design from a picture, every piece would be unique, just a little bit different from the original.
It wasn’t long before Jeanette became friends with two other artists, and the three got together regularly to paint and critique each other’s work, input that helped them to improve as time went by.
The process starts with selecting a design to paint. This can be anything from the scene on a greeting card to the artist’s own photograph, possibly taken on vacation as a souvenir. Then, the colors are selected and mixed with a special oil. The artist is careful to get the consistency just right so that it doesn’t run. When the mixture is right and dabbed onto the palette, the paint will not dry out and can be used for a long time, even years.
Jeanette takes another brush and fills it with yellow, then applies it to the bird’s breast. She is careful not to mix the paint with the blue she applied with her last stroke, although she doesn’t find this to be a particular problem. It doesn’t run together if the paint is mixed correctly. And when she makes a mistake, she simply rubs the paint off.
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