Elaine Baker - Village People

An ancient Chinese art dating back to the Tang Dynasty is alive and well in the heart of Cuckfield village!
     Working from home, porcelain painter Elaine spends hours meticulously working on each piece and producing antiques of the future. 
     She’s passionate about her work, is keen to encourage others to have a go, and would love to share her talent at a village Art Trail/Open House event.

By Claire Cooper
Elaine’s love of porcelain painting started 25 years ago when she signed up for a china painting evening class at Oathall Community College in Haywards Heath. “I was given a tile and a brush and I was hooked!” she says.

Elaine carried on for three terms before the teacher decided to leave. “I knew then that I would have to buy my own kiln or give up altogether,” she recalled.

Elaine started working on the dining room table at home. “My children got very used to coming home from school and being told to keep away from the table and not to touch anything!”

She then progressed to her garden ‘sheddio’, “it’s more than just a shed, but not quite a studio!”

Elaine was delighted to discover a porcelain painting club in Crawley with members from all over the South East. “At that time there were around 50 of us,” said Elaine. “Now there are only 9, but 2 of us live in Cuckfield!”

To paint on porcelain Elaine uses powder pigments mixed to a consistency similar to oil paints that can be painted onto a shiny surface. When heated, at about 800 degrees, the colour sinks into the glaze and by the time it has cooled is totally permanent.

“You can also mix the paints as ink and draw fine outlines with a mapping pen, fire, then build up the layers of the design,” said Elaine. “But the real beauty is that if you make a mistake, you can just wipe it off and start again. The paint doesn’t sink through the glaze until it is fired.”

“I like to mix lavender or clove oil in with the paint. It helps the paint stick to the china but also provides instant aromatherapy while I work!”

Sometimes Elaine uses pure gold. “It is mixed with oil, and when the piece is fired, the oil burns away and the gold is left. But at £40 for 5 grams I only use it on very special pieces.”

Read full story on pages 16/17.