Byzantine Ceramics Revisited

Byzantine ceramics, Byzantine Empire, art history

I recently began working on a series of ceramic plates and dishes inspired by Byzantine glazed pottery. Byzantine ceramics have not received the attention they deserve, in comparison with other ancient and medieval types. The techniques employed by Byzantine ceramicists were varied, including scraffito, “splash” glazing and fast, sketchy brushwork reminiscent of mid-20th Century design. In today’s international art marketplace, the available examples are undervalued but appeal to a fairly small group of modern antiquities collectors. Usually made of simple earthenware bodies with lead or tin glazes over underglaze decoration, everyday Byzantine glazed pottery of the 10th through 15th Centuries often featured geometric arrangements of plant life, mythical creatures or stylized real animals and people. The style incorporated not only older classical traditions but also strong influences from Islamic art and, in areas where they interacted such as Cyprus or Sicily, influences from western European glazed pottery. My modern reinterpretations are made of stoneware with water based glazes.

Byzantine pottery, Byzantine art, art history, historical ceramics, Christof Maupin, handmade pottery

My first piece in the series is shown above. It is a loose interpretation of the example pictured below, which is on display in the Byzantine Museum, Athens, Greece.

Byzantine pottery, Byzantine art, Byzantine Empire
13th Century Byzantine pottery plate in the Byzantine Museum, Athens.


Byzantine pottery, Byzantine art, Byzantine Empire, historical pottery, art history, Christof Maupin, handmade pottery, NC pottery

The second piece in my Byzantine series is pictured above. It is a large platter. The surface decoration, in colored underglazes beneath clear glaze, is loosely based on a fragmentary piece of the 13th or 14th Century (pictured below) made in the Marmara region, very close to the Byzantine capitol at Constantinople (today’s Istanbul in Turkey). Instead of using the scraffito and splash techniques typical of Byzantine pottery, I’ve applied the decoration without scratching through the surface and kept colors confined to specific decorative areas. Because the rim decoration on the original is not preserved and therefore speculative, I’ve opted for a conservative approach and left most of the clay plain and un-decorated closer to the rim

Byzantine ceramics, Byzantine Empire, art history
13th-14th Century Byzantine pottery plate fragment from the Marmara region, near Constantinople, in the British Museum.


Byzantine pottery, Byzantine art, art history, handmade ceramics, art historical pottery, NC pottery, Christof Maupin

Third in my Byzantine series is the relatively small plate shown above. The surface decoration is based on a damaged but complete piece of the early 15th Century (shown below), the final decades of what remained of the Byzantine Empire. Surprisingly, it was found during excavations in The Netherlands. In the original piece, the central bird and the wavy pattern near the rim were scratched through the underglaze in scraffito technique, a layer of yellowish clear glaze applied over it. In my example, I’ve drawn the bird and wave pattern in black underglaze pencil over a white slip, then added more color using underglaze in browns, green and yellow before applying clear glaze over these.


Byzantine history, Byzantine art, Byzantine ceramics, art history
Early 15th Century Byzantine dish, from the final decades of Byzantine history, now in the British Museum.


Christof Maupin, Byzantine pottery, Byzantine ceramics, NC pottery, Christof Maupin, Byzantine Empire, art history

Pictured above is the final piece (for now) in my exploration of Byzantine glazed pottery. This is a shallow stoneware plate decorated in scraffito technique, in which a slip or underglaze is applied to the pottery and a design is scratched through the slip to reveal the clay body beneath. In addition, the typical Byzantine “splash” glaze technique has been used here, with a clear glaze applied first and splashes of colors (in this case yellow and dark green) applied over the scraffito designs.

Unlike the other pieces in this series, in this case I have not tried to reinterpret the original style and technique of the ancient potters but have reproduced their techniques faithfully. This piece is also interesting in that the design is based on a stemmed cup (pictured below) in the Victoria and Albert Museum made on the Island of Cyprus when it was transitioning from Byzantine rule to Anglo-Norman rule in the 13th Century, introducing European ceramic tastes alongside strong Islamic and even ancient Classical ceramic traditions. I found this fusion of ceramic styles from very different cultures quite satisfying.

Byzantine Cyprus, Crusader Art, art history
14th Century Cypro-Byzantine (so-called “Crusader Period”) goblet from Cyprus, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.


All of these pieces are available for purchase (u.S. buyers only unless by special arrangement) in my Etsy shop. The glazes are all food safe. They are all dishwasher safe but hand washing is recommended.



Recently Completed Works

With the Studio Technicians show at Wilma Daniels Gallery in Wilmington, NC having successfully ended with 2 of my works sold, this seemed a good opportunity to post a few other recently completed pieces. Below are images of some of my recent work in ceramic and other media. I’ve included a link to each. Enjoy.

bud vase, ceramic vase, impressionist, beach sunset, Oak Island NC


acrylic on canvas, small paintings, sunset painting, Oak Island NC


ceramic jewelry, ceramic pendant, wearable art


bud vases, ceramic vases, handmade ceramics


Byzantine pottery, Byzantine ceramics, Byzantine style, art history, historic ceramics, handmade pottery, handmade ceramics, Christof Maupin


Christof Maupin, mixed media wall art, ceramic wall art, ceramic mixed media wall hanging


porcelain, Christof Maupin, bud vase, abstract design, ceramic artist




Something Exciting is Happening in the Ceramic Arts

Over the past several weeks articles have appeared in The Guardian, on BBC and in The L.A. Times, among others, about the elevated status of ceramics in the U.S., U.K, Europe and beyond: demand from the public for classes, rising sale and auction prices and innovative approaches to the use of ceramics from artists and designers with little or no previous experience in the medium. As a ceramic artist who most often takes a mixed media approach to use of this material (an example of my work is the featured image for this article), I’m very excited by what I’ve been reading. I’d like to share some of these articles with my readers. You’ll find links below, all of which will open in new windows or tabs..

From The Guardian U.S. Edition – Top of the pots: the smashing rise of ceramics

From BBC – Rise of the rebel potters

From The L.A. Times – Ceramic art ascends in LA

From Departures Magazine – New Book and Exhibition Explore the Hidden Side of Ceramics





My next Show Opens Monday, May 14

An update on my next show: the first ever Cape Fear Community College Fine Arts Department Studio Technicians Art Show. I’m scrambling to finish a few new works, for a total of 10 pieces I’ll have in this show, to include wall mounted decorative ceramics as well as functional ceramics, paintings on canvas and panel, monotype prints, jewelry in ceramic, enameled metal and mixed media. There will be 5 of us exhibiting, including 3 current and 2 past Studio Techs (I’m the Studio Technician for Ceramics). Make sure to come to our 4th Friday Reception at the Wilma Daniels Gallery on May 25th, 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Snacks, beer and wine will be served.


Catching Up: Recent Works

I’ve had many changes in my life the last few months, and have been remiss in posting to this blog. So below please find images of a few new works made since I last posted to this blog in January. These include ceramic and mixed media sculptural works for wall hanging and tabletop display, jewelry in ceramic, resin and metalwork and functional ceramics for everyday use. Some are in my Etsy shop and I’ve included links to those items with the images.

In my next blog entry, I’ll be posting and exploring some new works inspired by ancient Greek red and black figure pottery and other imagery from antiquity.


Looking at some of my recently sold work

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for sales here in Wilmington, with the annual Art For The Masses show in late November and the Bottega Holiday Art Market this past weekend. Between the two I sold a great many pieces in enameled copper, ceramics of all sorts and printmaking and other works on paper. The images below should be self explanatory and are a good cross section of my recently sold work.


My Etsy shop still has well over 100 items in several media for last minute holiday shopping –


Join me at Art For The Masses 2017!

If you live in eastern North Carolina, please join me and fellow artist Ashly Farley at Art For The Masses 2017 on the UNCW campus, this Saturday, November 18 from 9 AM to 3 PM. Admission is FREE. 100 local and regional artists. I’ll be at Booth #3 in the Burney Lobby. I’ll be offering hand built and slip cast ceramics, enameled copper and other jewelry and prints in numbered editions, monotypes and more. Everything priced to move. A great opportunity for Holiday shopping. 25% of sales at our booth will go to benefit Unlocking Silent Histories, the non-profit organization sponsoring us. Hope to see you there.

Embracing the roughness of woodblock prints

I recently began making a series of small woodblock prints, most of them using only black ink, in preparation for a major show of my work in various media here in Wilmington, North Carolina. I had neglected printmaking for over a year and felt ready to revisit this medium that I enjoyed so much. And I was certain that I wanted all my prints to be in the woodcut technique.

I’ve long enjoyed the woodcut style that evolved alongside Viennese Modernism in the years prior to the First World War, and continued after the war well into the 1930s in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in central Europe under the broad umbrella of Expressionism. This style continues to be emulated by artists worldwide even today. Its sometimes harsh features make it especially well suited to political and social commentary. The features I most enjoy of this long running style are a willingness to accept small imperfections in the matrix, often allowing the grain of the wood to remain visible in the finished work and permitting tool marks to remain visible as part of the “texture” of the composition. Below are some outstanding examples of this style that especially appeal to me.


Emma Bormann,
Universitat in Groningen (University in Groningen). Germany, 1922


Kurt Gunther,
Der Verlorene Sohn (The Prodigal Son). Germany, 1930


Carlos Barbarena, The Refugees. Nicaragua / United States.


Igor Koutsenko, La Jolla, Dragon Tree. United States.

My own work took on a very clear resemblance to this technique from the outset. One of my most successful woodcut prints is shown below. Made about two years ago, the affinity to this originally European style of woodcut printmaking is obvious.


Fishing Pier, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Sunrise. 2015

I recently completed a series of very simple small prints of an owl on a branch. These may be considered a series but not an edition because each of the dozen in the series is unique: the matrix changed slightly during the printmaking process but the major change from one print to the next was the application of ink with a paintbrush to complete the eyes, giving each owl a slightly different facial expression.


Whooo Are You? 2017

I’ll be continuing work on a series of small woodcut prints over the coming weeks and months in this same style and hope to share these with my readers here.


Some new pendants in glazed ceramic, acrylic, enameled copper and bronze.

Tree of Life pendant, ceramic pendant, ceramic jewelry, hand made ceramics, hand made jewelry
firescale, bronze jewelry, hand made jewelry, bronze pendant
In my Etsy shop –


ceramic jewwlry, ceramic pendant, hand made jewelry
In my Etsy shop –


ceramic pendant, ceramic jewelry
In my Etsy shop –


ceramic jewelry, ceramic pendant
In my Etsy shop –


ceramic jewelry, tree of life pendant, ceramic pendant
In my Etsy shop –
Tree of Life pendant, ceramic pendant, ceramic jewelry, hand made ceramics, hand made jewelry
In my Etsy shop –



ceramic pendant, ceramic jewelry, hand made ceramics, hand made jewelry
In my Etsy shop –








enamel jewelry, enamel on copper, enamel pendant
In my Etsy shop –



A look back at my show at The Foxes Boxes in Wilmington, NC

For those in southeastern North Carolina who were unable to attend and all my followers and friends out of state, this is a digital version of my solo show in Wilmington. The images are arranged in the same order a visitor would have seen them and the captions are the same text used in the printed guide made available at the show. Enjoy.


UNTITLED: This plaque is one of my earliest ceramic wall pieces and I recall being surprised at the way in which it took on its own decorative style, almost against my will. The underglaze colors are suggestive of those used in many ancient European cave paintings, while the spiral is a design element seen in prehistoric art worldwide. $48.00

Atmospheres 1

ATMOSPHERES: This and the next two pieces were part of a short series intended purely to explore form and color. They both feature underglaze decorated slip cast ceramic tiles mounted on wood slats painted with acrylics. $45


UNTITLED: This is a more elaborate version of the exploration of form and color expressed in the previous work. In this piece, I’ve mounted two large tiles between slates of wood painted in copper colored acrylic. The colors on the tiles come purely from underglazes, fired at temperatures well above what they were designed for and causing them to vitrify. In the narrow space between the tiles is a section of foam board that I marbled with acrylic paints. Marbled papers have always fascinated me and this piece provided an opportunity to have my interpretation of that old art form intersect with my interest in abstraction; in this case, the tiles. $65

Analogous 1

ANALAGOUS: Like the previous two pieces, this work explores form and color and features underglaze decorated slip cast ceramic tiles mounted on a wood slat painted with acrylics. $45


UNTITLED. In my “day job” I am a dealer in ancient Mediterranean and related antiquities. Because most ancient works of art have come down to us in a broken or incomplete condition, I wanted to explore in my own work the nature of broken things: Why are we drawn to them? Should or can they be made whole again? How did they come to be broken? By extension, these same questions may be asked of human lives. This piece involves pieces of stoneware and porcelain glazed after being broken, assembled on a wooden slat, with an unfinished enamel pendant suspended by copper wire. SOLD.


SANCTITY OF THE OLD. Much of my work in ceramics and other media is inspired by my background in dealing with art history and antiquities. My father was a librarian specializing in rare books and manuscripts and early printing, so I grew up with a reverence for such documents. This piece suggests calligraphy on old textured papers in a couple of imaginary languages. It is a suggestion or feeling based on childhood memories transformed, expressed here in clay. $60

How can I be silent

HOW CAN I BE SILENT? This ceramic and multimedia work addresses the plight of the Assyrian minority in Iraq (I am half Assyrian) which has been reduced in size by over half – many fleeing to Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA. The central tile features ancient Neo-Assyrian cuneiform with the title: How can I be silent? Ceramic (stoneware) with melted red and green glass, copper wire, colored glaze and acrylics $85

Doubts Even Here 2

DOUBTS EVEN HERE: This work is part of a series created to explore pure, raw emotions – specifically, my own. The stoneware slab has three terracotta tiles affixed to it, all of them enhanced with colored frit, molten copper and, in the central tile, a large sheet of copper foil melted into the terracotta. This was an attempt to visually represent the ways in which so many people fear taking risks in their relationships with others, leading to regrets later in life. $65


The two masks that follow are part of a larger group that I made about 18 months ago. They were all intended to be representations of real people I knew but during the act of making they transformed – some became personifications of ideas while others became representations of completely different persons from those originally intended to be. The creative process is always full of such surprises.

UNTITLED MASK: The hair of this piece was my attempt to loosely imitate the hair and crowns often depicted on Romano-Egyptian mummy cases and masks. In this case, I made the hair out of paper mache and covered it with underglaze. When it fired, the underglaze solidified while the underlying paper burned away, leaving a fragile but intricate head of “hair.” I will leave to the viewer’s interpretation the reason this female face has a band aid across her mouth. $48


UNTITLED MASK: This female mask with “big hair” started out as my interpretation of one person but transformed into another person entirely, someone very important to me, over the space of a few weeks. Unlike most of the other pieces in this show, it is purely ceramic with colored underglazes – no paints or other materials that would make it a mixed media work. $60


SHANNON SEATED: This final piece is simply a means of demonstrating that ceramic art can be so much more than pretty pots and coffee mugs. Ceramics offer limitless possibilities. In this case, a simple slab of brown terracotta has been used as if it were a canvas. Using underglaze, one may “paint” on pottery and ceramic of all types, in any form from portraiture to total abstraction. Indeed, ceramic artists have been doing so in one way or another for thousands of years. In this work, I have used no glaze but have fired the underglaze twice – once at bisque temperature and again at glaze temperature to vitrify both it and the terracotta.

A few recently completed works…

Here’s a quick roundup of some recently completed works, mostly metalwork and jewelry, not shown in my recent blog posts. The images don’t really need any descriptions. Watch for some new ceramics and printmaking pieces in the coming weeks and thanks for following.