A-Z of Ceramics - G is for Grand Feu
'Grand feu', simply meaning 'high temperature firing', is a term especially applied to tin-glazed earthenwares (or 'faïence') made in France. It was used in contrast to an alternative method of decoration, known as 'petit feu'.
'Grand feu' decoration relied on a limited range of colours that could be painted onto the raw glaze and fired together. Often boldly painted, the result could be both highly decorative and very economical. 'Petit feu' decoration had an expensive extra enamel firing, which could only be justified when faience was attempting to rival porcelain. As tough porcelain and imported printed English earthenwares became readily available in France towards the end of the 18th century, faience declined until only reproductions and souvenirs continued to be made.
French artist potters of the late 19th century also used the term to describe stonewares or porcelains with brilliant but unpredictable red flambé glazes based on oriental prototypes. These pioneers were the first true studio potters.