Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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Last updated: 1st August 2011

Lustre

Lustres are very thin coatings of metallic compounds (copper, silver etc) fired at comparatively low temperatures onto a glazed surface with the intention to produce an iridescent sheen.

Matte Glaze

A glaze with a very low level of gloss. Matte glazes usually have a micro crystalline surface or a surface with a texture that scatters light.

Mercury gilding

A gilding technique using mercury to carry the powdered gold. The mercury would be vapourised in the glost firing leaving the gold. Mercury gilding was introduced from circa 1790.

Oil gilding

A gilding technique where the gold is suspended in an essential oil with other materials and applied to the ware. The oil is driven off by firing and the dull gold decoration burnished.

Palette (Colour palette)

The range of colours used on a particular class of ware or type of decoration. For example the ‘Imari’ palette of deep blue, iron red and gold.

Pinhole

A glaze fault where tiny pinholes appear in the glaze surface.

Relief moulding

A decoration standing out from the surface in high or low relief.  Relief decoration may be formed in the moulding or slip casting process or may be formed in a separate mould and then applied to the main piece.  See ‘sprigging’.

Rocaille

One of the main motifs in rococo decoration based on shapes of rocks and shells.

Rococo

18th-century design originating in France based on asymmetric shapes characterized by elaborate, graceful ornamentation.

Scandy

A decorative pattern based on the Prince-of-Wales Feathers motif. ‘Scandy’ decoration appears on Devon pottery made for the tourist trade.

Scratch blue

Incised decoration into which cobalt pigment was rubbed before firing and glazing.

Sgraffito

A decorating technique where a pattern is incised or scratched into the surface of the still soft clay prior to firing and glazing.  Susie Cooper produced sgraffito decorated tablewares, but the technique is more relevant to studio pottery.

Spanish Work

A decorating style where on-glaze enamels were hand-painted to fill a pattern outlined by on-glaze gilding. Worcester tableware and ornamental ware produced in the 1890s and 1900s may have Spanish Work decoration.

Sprigging

A decorating technique were small clay cut-outs usually pressed in a mould are stuck with slip to the main body of the ceramic. The translucent milky motifs applied to Wedgwood’s Jasper Ware are an example of the sprigging technique.  Blue-stained sprigs of vine leaves and other botanical motifs were applied to white ware by many manufacturers.

Transfer-printing

A printing technique where a print is taken from an etched copper plate onto tissue paper or other flexible media and then transferred to the surface of the ceramic.  The pattern is transferred and the tissue removed before the pattern is fused to the ceramic in the kiln.

Transfer printing was used on the glazed surface of porcelain from circa 1750, under the glaze from circa 1760 on porcelain and from circa 1780 on earthenware. The transfer print was often used as the template for further decoration with hand-applied enamels.

 

DECORATIVE TERMS

Acanthus leaf

A classical leaf motif based on the leaf of Acanthus mollis, an herbaceous perennial found in the Mediterranean region. The deeply lobed, dark green leaves are believed to be the inspiration for the capitals of the Corinthian columns of Graeco-Roman architecture. Acanthus leaf mouldings were a popular architectural feature on Victorian buildings in addition to appearing in ceramic decoration.

This Walters plate in the ‘Mikado’ pattern from 1889 has the strange juxtaposition of the classical Graeco-Roman acanthus leaf with a Japanese/Chinese scene of pagoda, bridge, water and pomegranite fruit.

Kakiemon

A Japanese porcelain with delicate over-glaze enameled decoration on a characteristic milky-white porcelain. Kakiemon is named after its originator Sakaeda Kakiemon who perfected a technique for multi-color over-glaze enamel painting on porcelain in the period 1640-1670 at Mangawara near Arita on the southern island of Kyushu.

 

Barbotine

Decoration applied as a low-relief wash of slip applied to the ware. Used on some art ware in the 19th and early 20th century

Blue and White Ware

White porcelain or earthenware decorated with a cobalt blue under-glaze print.

Although ‘Blue & White’ ware has a long history in China and the Middle East, the term blue & white is now usually used to refer to the blue, under-glaze, transfer printed ware produced by European manufacturers in imitation of Chinese originals from about 1780 onward. Willow patterns and oriental themes were common, but were supplemented over time by European themes of every sort. Sturdy blue & white decorated ironstone china was exported by numerous potteries to North America and the British colonies in enormous quantities throughout the 19th and early 20th century.

Blue dash

A pattern of Dutch origin on rims of plates, chargers and bowls, painted or sponged with diagonal lines suggesting ropework, much used on English delft pottery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Chasing

A technique to produce relief decoration without removing any of the body, the term is more applicable to silverware than to ceramics.

Chasing

A technique to produce relief decoration without removing any of the body, the term is more applicable to silverware than to ceramics.

Clobbering

The addition of coloured enamels and/or gilding over the glaze to enhance the attractiveness and value of early underglaze transfer printed wares.

Crazing

A web of very fine cracks in the surface glaze, sometimes penetrating through to the body itself.  Crazing is the result of changes in temperate and atmospheric conditions over many years, causing the body and glaze to expand and contract different rates.

Diaper

A repetitive border pattern consisting of diamonds. lozenges or trellis.

Enamel

A glassy opaque or coloured material stained with coloured pigments and hand-painted over the glaze. Enamelling was often used to fill areas delineated by an on-glaze transfer printed outline.

Famille rose

Porcelain decorated with a rose-coloured opaque enamel developed by the Chinese from gold chloride and tin chloride, and which, depending on the heat of the kiln, produced a range of colours from pale rose to violet and even purple.

The term was adopted by English porcelain manufacturers for their pinks, usually derived from manganese oxide, and in the 19th century the term came to denote any porcelain with a predominantly rose-coloured decoration.

Famille verte

Chinese porcelain from the late 17th century Wang Hsi period, decorated with a dominant vivid green, but including rust red, manganese purple and violet blue, enamelled over the glaze and enriched with gilding.

English manufacturers used copper oxide to make green for enamels, but with considerable difficulty. A green pigment made from chromium was discovered in 1749 which was much more opaque, but it was not used on English porcelain until the beginning of the 19th century.

Flow Blue

Blue and White earthenware distinguished by a blurred outline to the underglaze cobalt blue decoration and caused by diffusion of the cobalt oxide into the glaze during the glost (glaze) firing.

Flow Blue ware was made by addition of lime (calcium carbonate) or ammonium chloride to the saggar to promote diffusion of the pigment. The process was discovered, possibly by accident, in the late 18th Century, but the main period of 'Flow Blue' manufacture was from the 1830s to about 1900.

Fluted

Decorated with parallel grooves.

Foot-rim

The shaped rim found under most tableware.  The foot rim may be formed in the mould for slipware, or pressed flatware, or cut by turning on a lathe.

Gadroon

A gadroon is a repeating pattern of upright or slanting lobes on the edge of a cup or plate. It was a common decoration in the 18th and early 19th century.

Gilding

A decorating technique that results in a thin layer of gold being securely attached to the surface of a ceramic or other smooth object. See Mercury gilding, Honey gilding, Oil gilding etc.

Glaze

The smooth, impervious, glassy coating applied to ceramics primarily to make the body hygienic and non-porous. A glaze may be transparent, translucent or opaque, white or coloured, and highly glossy to matt in surface texture.

Gloss

Gloss describes the shinyiness and light-reflectivity of a glaze. Glazes high in glassy materials (SiO2, B2O3) are glossy. Those high in Al2O3 tend to be matte and the SiO2:Al2O3 ratio is taken as a general indicator of glaze glossiness.

Ground

The dominant background colour applied to a ceramic, usually under the glaze.

Honey gilding

A gilding technique using powdered gold mixed with oil of lavender and honey. Used, in the United Kingdom from about 1755.

Impasto

A decorating style where colour is applied to the raw clay before glazing and firing. Wileman & Co. Manufactured Impasto Ware to designs of  Frederick Rhead in the early-1900s.

Incised

A decoration cut into the surface with a metal tool. See scraffito.

Japanning

A method of hardening-on lacquers and enamels to woods, metals and ceramics.

The milky-white porcelain body is known as Nigoshide (milky white) and was a whiter porcelain body introduced into the Arita kilns in the mid-1600s. Kakiemon ware is characteristed by a colourful, but sparse decoration, usually asymmetric and positioned to emphasise the purity of the elegant milky-white porcelain body. The over-glaze enamel decoration and subjects include people, animals and the favoured Japanese botanical motifs of pine, Prunus and bamboo. Kakiemon decoration has much in common with Ming Dynasty Chinese porcelain.

Kakiemon was probably first produced for export to Europe and as such is asub- type of ‘Imari Ware’ – the porcelain produced in the Arita region and exported through the port of Imari. In Europe it was bought by the Royal Courts and nobility and in due course was copied by the European porcelain factories at Meissen, Vincennes, St-Cloud etc, by the Dutch delft-ware manufacturers, and by the Worcester, Bow and Chelsea factories in the United Kingdom.

More generally, kakiemon is used to describe delicate patterns of rocks, roots, peony and Prunus derived from Japanese paintings on paper or silk.