Rina Mercuri has always been known for her love of her garden, the Garden Festival, and her commitment to the community, yet there is another side to this talented woman: she has also been dabbling in fine bone china painting.
Mrs Mercuri got her hand into painting fine bone china when friend and fellow garden lover Joy Plos introduced her to the craft.
“I started, I don’t know how many years ago, with Joy Plos,” Mrs Mercuri said.
“I thought that's lovely, but I can’t paint and she said, ‘Of course you can’.”
With a little motivational push, Mrs Mercuri had a go.
“It’s so different to everything – it’s not like painting a canvas; you push and pull.
“As you do your strokes, you push with your brush up to get the nice edges.”
While Mrs Mercuri was initially worried she would be unable to pick up the technique, with continued lessons she began to form a rhythm in the craft.
“Now, I make all different things.”
She has kept the first vessel she painted, but many of her other creations are given away to friends and family.
“Sometimes my family will say, ‘I’d like a butter dish’ or ‘I would like a little vase’ or ‘I’d like a platter’.”
Mrs Mercuri has also tried her hand at porcelain, “a different technique to bone china”, which has a distinct response to the paints.
“You use a different medium. One you use fat, the other you use a different medium – an open medium.
“For fine bone china, you have a little powder and you put that on a tile and mix it with an open medium to a really good consistency.”
While she said porcelain is easier to work with, fine bone china painting is more “forgiving”; the paint remains wet and allows for more versatility and reworking until it is fired in the kiln.
“Whereas porcelain, it does dry on there, so you can’t go and touch it up afterwards – if there’s an error you virtually have to remove that area.”
And, to clean the brushes, Mrs Mercuri uses aniseed oil.
“The scent burns away [from the china] but it lingers on in the home.”
When asked if she liked aniseed, she laughed:
“I like Sambuca in my coffee.”
Yet sadly, as Mrs Mercuri has such a busy life, she doesn’t always have time to pick up a brush and continue her talent.
And, fine bone china painting appears to be a dying art in Australia. Mrs Mercuri, who used to order her pieces within Australia, must now buy from overseas.
“There’s not a lot available in Australia – it’s really sad.”
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