The Porcelain Garden — Marty Kubicki & Rob Buhler (Irvine, California)

Marty and Rob specialize in porcelain lithophanes, a lost 19th Century art form, into which they’ve breathed new life. A lithophane is a thin translucent panel of porcelain with a highly detailed etching on the front. When light is shined from behind, the carving comes to life as an incredibly intricate image, complete with subtle nuances of shading. 

Their relief-carved porcelain decorative tilework is actually a "long lost brother" of the lithophane technique. However, instead of using the translucency of the porcelain to create the image, "we use a translucent glaze to achieve the nuances of shading in the image,” they explain. The glaze pools in the deeper areas of the carving, thus appearing darker, and it flows off of the raised areas of the carving, exposing the white porcelain. "This produces an uncanny, almost photographic effect, yet it is caused by the different depths of the glaze."

Having always been fascinated by the translucency of this remarkable but challenging material, Marty first started working in porcelain in 1981. In some of his earlier works, he explored the interplay of light and clay by making carved lampshades in porcelain. Then, in 1983, he was shown his first antique lithophane by a collector. He dedicated himself to discovering the secrets of creating lithophanes. 

Initially, they started by reproducing antique lithophanes that they had been collecting. Over the years, they eventually learned how to carve their own original designs. Now, their skills have progressed to the point that "we are now making some of the most detailed lithophanes ever made.” They've branched out from the original Victorian Era images, now creating images in a broad range of genres: animals, nature, scenic and others. "We truly make a lithophane to appeal to everyone’s tastes. It's a lifelong journey, always challenging, yet always rewarding.”

Below are just a few of the Porcelain Garden pieces we carry.

porcelain garden

“Woodland Sunbeams" luminaire

pg night lights

“Kitten Dreams,” "Woodland Sunbeams” and “Morning Run” night lights

pg tiles

"Woodland Sunbeams” relief tiles© Off the Beaten Path 2016