By chance we came across a newspaper report entitled “In the Fight Against Male Prejudice” in which an artist named Elisabeth von Eicken was portrayed. The artist's interesting CV caught our attention and we started researching. We learned more in an exchange with KPM archivist Claudia Tetzlaff. Elisabeth von Eicken also painted KPM porcelain, but not - as is usual today - as a porcelain painter trained in the Berlin factory. The artistic director of the factory, Professor Theodor Schmuz-Baudiss, gave painting classes for young women from good families at the School of Applied Arts and Crafts, in which she probably took part. So the profession of porcelain painter didn't even exist at the beginning of the 20th century?

Porcelain painter Anette Reimann at work

The path to porcelain painting as a career was far from being paved for women; the expensive and long-lasting training was preferred to be invested in male applicants. Women were expected to marry early and take care of the household and children. The - now outdated - role model of the male breadwinner of the family continued for a long time: until 1977, the husband had to agree if his wife wanted to work. In the 1980s, the Berlin manufactory received bonuses from the IHK when women were trained as “porcelain painters”.

Given this background, it is not surprising that the majority of men dominate artistic or craft professions. At the same time, the profession of porcelain painter was considered strenuous due to the piecework and one-sided physical strain that had existed since the beginning. While you (as a right-handed person) hold the porcelain with your left hand and support it against the painting desk, your right hand has to apply the paint with a brush and pen in artistic decorations to services and vases without shaking. An understanding of the composition of metal oxide colors and their reaction to fire is required. Tight deadlines for orders can create additional time pressure.

Trude Petri designed decors for KPM Berlin from 1929

After the First World War and the experience that a large number of well-trained skilled workers were temporarily no longer available due to the military draft - or in the worst case - did not return from the war, women were also trained in painting. Ursula Böhme, Anneliese Heidenreich, Else Möckel, Sigrid von Unruh and Luise-Charlotte Koch began their training in 1938/39. Trude Petri, who was hired as a ceramist at the KPM Berlin in 1929, also dealt with porcelain painting and designed decors herself. However, women in painting still represented a minority in a male-dominated environment.

It wasn't until the 1970s/1980s that the change to more and more female applicants who were interested in the arts and crafts profession took place. In 2022, porcelain painters will be in the clear majority at the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin GmbH.

Painted porcelain from KPM Berlin