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At a Kiln


L'espoir est ma force.

What opportunity has a poor man? In these days such a multitude of opportu nities await him that their very presence blinds the vision.

But it was different in the year 1511, and yet not so very different.

In that year there was born in the south of France a boy—Palissy by name. He was christened Bernard. The boy's father was a glassworker, so poor that he could not educate Bernard, who once said: "I have no other books than heaven and earth, which are open to all." This boy was reared in his father's business, learning glassmaking and the art of painting on glass. At eighteen he left home and went out into the world, the world of heaven and earth, which is open to all. Whenever oppor tunity offered he worked at his trade—being, as you see, a true journeyman ; a man who journeys and subsists by his labor.

At twenty-eight he married and settled down to earn his living by glass painting and land surveying. The latter art he learned after he left his father's house. With a wife and chil dren, he found it necessary to do all he could to increase his earnings.

Neither glass painting nor land surveying, nor both, proved sufficient. So he set himself to learn, with absolutely no help, the art of painting and enameling earthenware.

What gave his ambition this trend as a means of increasing his skill and income was appar ently an accident. He saw one day a beautiful cup, one probably made by the great Italian artist, Lucca della Robbia.

Bernard Palissy stood before it in wonder, and determined to make cups like it.

To discover the enamel of that Italian cup so dominated his thought that he forgot every thing else—even the necessary increase of in come to feed and clothe his family.

Like a man groping in the dark, he began to mix and bake earth. He bought, when he could, earthenware pots, broke them to bits, mixed them with compounds, and baked them in a furnace of his own construction. Time after time he went through this process, and the only result was a hungry family and a dissatisfied man.

This quest for the enamel of that Italian cup went on for years. When he had to, he worked at land surveying and glass painting; but these took a secondary place, and he re sorted to them only to provide the necessities of life for his family and himself.

Then Palissy became too poor to build a furnace and provide it with the fuel necessary to make his earthenware. He was compelled

to take his wares to a glass furnace in a neigh boring town to be baked. Pr..ctically no re sult followed this, although he noted that the heat in the glass furnace, being greater than that generated in the furnaces of his own con struction, produced better results.

Two more years passed. Poverty pursued him sorely, but he determined on one more trial. He made a sufficient quantity of enamel ing compound to cover three hundred pieces of earthenware and sent them to a glass fur nace for baking.

Of these three hundred pieces when taken out to cool, one was what he had so long sought for. Just one piece out of three hun dred, and of the many hundreds that had gone before.

"It was a singularly beautiful piece," said Palissy.

Then he determined to build a glass fur nace for himself near his house, where he could watch the process more carefully and consistently. He did all the work himself, and it took him nearly a year.

The pots were prepared, the fire was lighted, and Palissy sat close by, watching and feeding the fuel to the furnace. He sat up all night, never taking his eyes from the process going on in the heat.

His wife brought his breakfast to him, and he sat another day, and another night—and so on until six days and nights had gone, and the enamel compound did not melt.

Was it the last failure? No.

He started over again and mixed his com pounds differently, and succeeded in borrowing money to reconstruct his furnace. When the fire was made, the man watched and watched, but still the enamel would not melt.

Then the fuel gave out.

He rushed out and tore down the fence and added it to the fire. Still the enamel did not melt.

Perhaps if he could keep the fire going just a little longer it would come! He rushed into the house and broke every bit of furniture that would burn that he might keep the fire going.

Then the enamel melted! But it was not until a period of sixteen years had passed that Palissy actually found himself master of the situation.

Then he called himself a potter.

In all that time he had struggled and starved himself and his loved ones, pursuing that which he thought many times he was destined never to overtake—the vision of an enamel glaze on an Italian vase that he once saw by chance.

enamel, glass, furnace, painting and man