Words Words Words
by Judy Wagner
Excerpted from the TCC Bulletin
Mealtime conversation at the New Hampshire Conference inspired this attempt at a selective glossary of commonly used ceramic terms. Definitions give us boundaries within which to organize what we learn and some assurance that we "speak the same language". Particular caution is due in the field of ceramics. Wares did not remain static but evolved with changing consumer tastes and the fierce competition among potters to produce cheaper wares. The result was great diversity in the formulas used for bodies and glazes even within a type of ware.
Our challenge is to appreciate terms as used over time by the potters and merchants in the conduct of daily business. If the glossary idea is of value to the membership we'll continue and next tackle the porcelains. Here, with due respect to Liza Doolittle, is an effort to sort out the white earthenwares.
Creamware or Cream Colored Earthenware
- Marked a Staffordshire pottery industry shift away from salt glazed stoneware.
- A creamware body existed but it was Josiah Wedgwood's improved version (under production by c I 763) that was critical to its widespread acceptance. Also known as Queens'Ware after his firm marketed sets to Queen Charlotte of England and Catherine the Great of Russia.
- Early on the ware had a yellowish cast. It became whiter by the late 1770s once potters could use china clay (kaolin).
- The vast majority of creamware was undecorated. The small amount that was decorated was done overglaze.
- Creamware was very popular from its inception through the 1780s and by 1795 was the cheapest refined ceramic available. Increasingly through the 1820s production focused on utilitarian items, bowls, mugs, chamber pots and some plates.
- At the end of the 18th century potters began to use the initials CC to stand for cream colored ware.
- Production of what the potters called CC ware continued through the 19th century. This was essentially an undecorated white ware that was not white granite.
- There was industry pressure from the 1770s on for ever whiter ware: "China Glaze" was being produced by cl775. It's characteristics are an attempt to imitate Chinese porcelain (use of a blue tinted glaze that gives the entire product a bluish tint); decoration in blue painted and printed patterns in Chinese style and some vessel forms made in Chinese style. The product was out of vogue by c 1 812. "Pearl White" was the name Wedgwood gave his product developed in the late 1770s. Here cobalt was used only to whiten the ware not with intent to imitate the Chinese. Both the above terms have been included in the name "Pearlware" by modem scholars.
- Pearlware is almost always decorated. The domiant color is cobalt blue and the decoration is usually underglaze.
- The ware flourished from the late 1790s to cl830.
- Produced at the Wedgwood factory by c 1 805. As with the earlier "China Glaze" the intent was to copy porcelain. (Josiah Spode's success with a very white bone china gets credit for moving the earthenware potters toward whiter ware).
- Whiteware presents a classification problem. Cobalt was used to counter any yellow tint in the glaze. The ware is white but there can be some pooling of light blue glaze around the foot rim. Miller contends intent is what counts and an item shouldn't be called pearlware because there is a bit of cobalt visible.
- Whiteware with a small amount of blue shows up into the 1840s.
- Whiteware without any sign of cobalt is still in production.
- The ware was usually decorated and the decoration used - painted, printed or edged etc. was the way the potters classified it.
- Specifically the term is derived from the name (Patent Ironstone China) Charles Mason gave his stone china in an 1813 patent. Other potters producing early stone china were William Turner, John Davenport, Josiah Spode and Hicks & Meigh.
- Again as with "China Glaze" ware, the aim was to emulate Chinese porcelain in its blue tinted glaze and decorative style.
- Most ware, prior to the 1830s, is vitrified (fired at a very high temperature to achieve a smooth glassy appearance) or simi-vitrified. The ware is dense and durable.
- The potters'term for undecorated ware, evolved from ironstone, which became plentiful in the 1840s and enjoyed some popularity to century's end. The term is helpful in distinguishing this product from the highly decorated ironstone/stone chinas. Popularly called "White Ironstone".
- Ware of the 1840s through the 1860s is usually vitrified. molded patterns and many-sided shapes are common.
- Later ware is more likely to have plain round shapes and less molding. The ware may not be vitrified. These changes were all means of cutting production costs.
- Many firms had a special name or names for the product they produced (e.g. Superior White Granite or Imperial French Porcelain) just as was the case for ironstone.
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