Thursday, 5 August 2010

Bannette with a Cerelle B

Malicorne faïence has always been a favorite of mine. Just as Quimper has its own charm and individuality, so has Malicorne.
Malicorne, like Quimper, is a town of course, and in Malicorne there were numerous faïenceries starting from the mid 1700s.
The banette in this blog was made by the Pouplard-Béatrix liaison of Plat d'étain. The number of faïenceries has greatly declined, but there are still active ones there making beautiful things and there is a museum worthy of the trip for lovers of faïence.

Being a hopeful gardener, I have always liked bees. I love having them buzzing around the garden, knowing they are busy doing their pollinating jobs. For that reason, I feel protective of them and several times I have used a twig to fish an errant bee out of the birdbath before he drowns.
So it was with delight that recently I saw on sale a Malicorne banette featuring a scene with bees. Now this was a first for me! I am especially fond of the Pouplard painted Malicorne pieces, but never before had I seen anything like this.

PBx mark on the back of the banette.
It is a busy scene with seven people ranging in all ages. A younger man is showing an elder what is going on. Some of the people, including a young girl, are wielding strange instruments or tools of some sort.
My husband, Bill, who had helped his grandfather tend the beehives on the ranch, did not recognize the devices. He said that they had used smoke to calm or daze the bees when they would harvest the honey, but that these surely didn't look like smokers.
After much puzzling and conjecture, I searched the Web and who knew there would be so much on bee keeping?!
I came upon a site John's Beekeeping Notebook which had all kinds of information on bees, as well as other topics, and an address to contact.
I wrote to John and presented my questions about the scene. He kindly replied that it appeared the people were doing what was called "drumming" or "tanging" the bees.
I found this fascinating picture from a late 17th century Dutch book.
The object in the man's hand looks very much like the ones people are shown using on my banette.
The book stated that "Tanging was also a way for a beekeeper to alert other beekeepers that a claim was being made on a found swarm. Acquiring new bees by laying claim to a swarm was important, as it was routine at this time for beekeepers to asphyxiate their bees with fumes from burning sulphur in order to access the honeycomb safely.”
Oh dear! Poor hardworking bees!
This is evidently a very old technique to get a swarm of bees to stop flying and settle down. This is hardly ever used today, according to John, but getting a free swarm to settle into a skep (or skip, as the straw hives were called) was the primary way for a beekeeper to increase his number of hives.
He said, "Today, we raise queens when we want to increase our number of colonies."
Bill was amazed, and said that in his experience making all that noise would only anger the bees. However, he stated, they had been working with resident bees, not ones free and searching for a spot to settle and live.
John referred me to other sites. and Bee
On Bee Source, there was an interesting discussion of drumming the bees and there were some great stories of firsthand experiences doing that.
So, it appears that they are not concerned that it will anger the bees. Surely the elder persons would not be so close, nor that young girl either, if that were so.
From my first view of it, I have loved the painting on this platter showing this unusual scene and all of the interested and involved people and now that I know what they are doing, it means so much more to me.


  1. Cerelle, this is a delightful post. I've never seen this scene painting on another piece. How luky we are that you are sharing this beautiful and unusual bannette. Wonderful! ~ Sarah

  2. Cerelle, this is not only a beautiful bannette, but you have taught us so many things in this blog. I've a group of friends on Face Book who would love all this bee lore. Most interesting links which you have found. I'm sure this specail piece will always mean a lot to you.

    Great job!!!! Look forward to more this month.

  3. Cerélle, I always learn something interesting from your posts! This is particularly timely in that the overall health of our planet is reflected in the overall health of the bee populations. Apparently after 30 years of decline in numbers, last year there was a bee baby boom (at least in this part of the world) ... Perhaps your platter was a special order for a beekeeper??

  4. Martin would like to try his hand at Beekeeping - we have a Beee shortage and urban beekeeping is becoming popular.
    What an interesting plate and great reseach too - thank you so much

  5. Thank you all for your comments, and thank you Doris for sharing this with your Face book friends. Judy, I had not even thought of that, but perhaps you are right that this was made as a special order for a bee keeper, or perhaps a family of bee keepers. I find that a very happy thought! And hearing that there is a bee baby boom anywhere is wonderful news! Thanks, again.