8 artifacts in this set
Circa 1891 China Painting Kit and Painted Porcelain Plates, Photographed at Henry Ford Museum in 1960
Decorative china painting began in the 1870s as a pastime for wealthy women. Several leaders worked to organize and expand the field. They developed new tools and techniques, created regional and national associations, and worked to train women of all economic backgrounds in the art of china painting.
Susan Frackelton's Tried by Fire was one the most influential manuals used by women interested in china painting in the late 19th century. Frackelton and other prominent leaders in the field of women's china painting ultimately transformed a pastime into a profession.
The Henry Ford's collections include a full set of china decorated by a young woman who took a china painting class while attending Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) in Lansing, Michigan. This plate features one of the patterns she practiced.
In preparation for her 1912 wedding, recent college graduate Helen Marie Eichele purchased a set of blank china at the prominent L.B. King & Co. store in Detroit. Friends helped paint some of the pieces, including this soup bowl and saucer.
China painting peaked around 1900, but it remained a major feature of American women's lives through the first World War. Importantly, the pastime of china painting gave rise to a new industry: art pottery. Through the first three decades of the 20th century, art pottery was considered a must in any well-furnished home. Painted china still fills china cabinets, exemplifying the aesthetic of an earlier generation.