Search the Archive:

September 17, 2004

Back to the Table of Contents Page

Back to the Voice Home Page


Publication Date: Friday, September 17, 2004

Puzzled by pique assiette? Puzzled by pique assiette? (September 17, 2004)

Bring an eye for color and a few broken plates to upcoming class

By Carol Blitzer

Whoops! Dropped your favorite china plate and feeling crushed?

Don't despair. You can learn to re-assemble the pieces into a garden stepping stone or table top at an upcoming workshop on pique assiette at Filoli.

Taught by Dori Powell, the class is designed for beginners who will bring old plates or ceramic tiles to the workshop to learn how to put them back together in new ways. Imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle using sharp scissors.

Participants will learn the best way to purposely smash china: Powell suggests laying out a sheet of plastic, placing the plate face down, covering with a towel, then whacking with a hammer. The rim will tend to separate from the plate, and a second whack or two or three will break up the plate into useable pieces. Tile nippers are used to create specific shapes. The newly made puzzle pieces will range from slivers to one-inch squares.

Pique (pronounced "peak") assiette literally means scrounger or freeloader in French. The art form is appealing to those who like to recycle and reuse.

"It can be a very beautiful art form, but you don't have be an artist to do it," Powell said. "It's good to have an eye for color. You can be successful without being 'artistic.'

"It's like laying tile. If you've ever laid a tile floor, you can do pique assiette -- except the pieces are random," she added.

Powell, a self-taught painter and artisan, has been teaching classes for 14 years at colleges and nearby recreation departments. She's taught classes in faux finishing, painting floor cloths, glass painting, crackle and gold-leafing and collage plates.

About two years ago she got interested in pique assiette and soon added it to her repertoire of workshops.

"I've always been able to dissect things," she said, adding that she may not be able to do it the easiest way at first, but she can recreate what she sees.

Powell's been painting for most of her life, but she's also made clothing, painted fabrics and done woodworking, among other artistic endeavors. "I was lucky I could do many different art forms," she said.

Today, she spends much of her time raising her two children, who are 6 and 2. "I think they'll both be creative. I just don't know to what degree," she said. "They're around art all the time and they're aware of it."

Working from her Cupertino home, she devotes her spare time to her business, Designs by Dori, where she specializes in decorative paint finishes. She also does color consulting, but hopes to get back to oil painting when her children are older.

It's her eye for color that enables her to advise her students on their early projects. In the workshop, she'll offer insights into what it'll take to "make it pop. I know when something needs oomph," she said.

Powell offers samples of her own whimsical projects, which include a bird feeder that consists of a teacup sitting atop a stair rail where the top part has china bits and a glass heart embedded. Or a wooden clock, with pique assiette on front and back and painted sides -- with a cup handle on the side.

She encourages students to bring other materials, such as smooth sea glass, that can also be incorporated. It's important that the pieces be of a similar thickness, or they won't lie flat, she said. After setting out the pattern, the pieces are adhered with mastic and filled in with 1/8- to 1/2-inch grout.

It's important to choose a strong base, she advised, because the tile or plate pieces will be heavy, once you add the mastic and grout. The pieces are durable either indoors or out.

"You can do pique assiette on any surface as long as there's a strong foundation," she said, but suggests beginning with a flat surface, such as a stepping stone or table top. More advanced students can tackle plant pots or other curved surfaces.

For her next project, Powell is searching for just the right candlestick base that she can apply china to, then top with a dinner plate to create a unique cake stand.

Ideas for new projects abound and inspiration is everywhere. "I really pay attention to my surroundings. I look at magazines and see details others might not see that give me ideas," she added.


What: Pique Assiette Workshop

When: Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Where: Filoli Center, 86 Canada Road, Woodside

Cost: $65, includes some class materials; materials list will be provided at registration.

Call: 364-8300.

E-mail a friend a link to this story.

Copyright © 2004 Embarcadero Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Reproduction or online links to anything other than the home page
without permission is strictly prohibited.