NEW YORK – Earthenware has a long history dating back nearly 30,000 years. The ability to form earth and clay into storage, drinking, cooking and household utensils proved helpful, especially as a nomadic life transitioned into more stable communities.
Earthenware by its nature is porous. Forming earth and clay into a pot or utensil, then allowing it to dry has limited use. It is fragile, unable to hold liquid and cannot be made too large as it is bulky, heavy and easily damaged. Firing it at temperatures as high as 1,100 degrees C (2,000 F) is the only way to strengthen it for daily use as a storage container.
However, to make it impermeable for the storage of liquids, a thin, clear coat of lead glaze and other oxides was fired to seal the pot. Later a tin oxide was added to form a white glaze from which a hand-painted decorative element could be applied.
Lead glaze vs. tin glaze
To fire correctly, the basic composition of clay used for earthenware today is 25% kaolin (a silicate), 25% ball clay, 35% quartz and 15% feldspar. When formed together and fired the result is a biscuit, or bisque, from which the final product is glazed and decorated.
A lead-based vitreous compound consisting of powdered glass melts over the earthenware at very high temperatures to create a glossy, transparent, impermeable coating. This type of “enameling” has been found in China as early as the 13th century B.C. Lead glaze is more durable than the tin-glazed compound and is used for molded decorative items that are painted after firing. Lead glaze alone was largely replaced by tin glaze about the 15th century.
Tin oxide was added to the lead glaze about the eighth century in region that is now Iraq to create a white opaque compound allowing colorful overglazes and design to be painted directly onto a mostly flat surface before being fired. This process required more skill since mistakes couldn’t be corrected and therefore was more expensive to produce. Tin oxide became difficult to get during World War I and zirconium and zircon has since been substituted as a cheaper alternative, except in very small quantities.
Identifying tin-glazed earthenware
Once tin oxide was added to lead glaze, most collectible earthenware is made with this formulation.
This is the French name for tin-glazed pottery first produced during the 15th century Renaissance period in the Italian city of Faenza, near Ravenna. Today, it is more of a catch phrase for white tin-glazed pottery glaze that doesn’t have its own particular style. Usually the term refers only to the tin-glazed wares made in France, Germany and Scandinavia.
Said to have come from the Spanish island of Majorca to Italy in the 15th century, this style of tin-glazed pottery is highly decorated with vibrant stylized natural or historical events known as istoriato. It is common in collector circles to identify lead-glaze pottery as majolica and tin-glaze pottery as maiolica.
A vibrant blue and white tin-glazed pottery from the city of Delft in the Netherlands. This style is easily recognized in the Delft blue tiles and jars showing Dutch scenes such as windmills. The heyday of Delftware is from 1640 to 1740 but became popular in England (known as English Delftware), Japan and China in the 18th century. Delftware production continued at a greatly reduced level through Victorian times into the 20th century.
Tin-glaze pottery having a golden iridescent sheen is aptly named luster, or lusterware. Originating in the Middle East in the ninth century, this metallic glaze of copper and other metallic oxides provides an earthy brown to the white tin-glaze underglaze. Luster decoration became popular with English potteries in the first quarter of the 19th century.
Produced during the period of Muslim Spain beginning in the eighth century, tin-glaze earthenware was originally produced using Islamic and Christian elements, particularly the “IHS” monogram and personal coats-of-arms for export to Europe. The 14th and 15th centuries constituted the peak period before the Italian maiolica earthenware become prominent.
From 1520 to 1550, a specialized and highly detailed bas relief white lead glaze earthenware was produced in the French city of Saint-Porchaire intended only for high-end collectors of the time. Known as Henri II ware or Saint-Porchaire Ware, only about 70 pieces survive from the period.
French potter Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) created high relief, polychrome lead-glaze natural scenes such as fish, snakes, frogs and even mussels often from taking casts of the real thing. Known also as “rustic ware,” most examples at auction are 19th and 20th century reproductions attributed to the style of Palissy while the 16th century originals are considered museum pieces.
Making use of the white, glassy lead-glaze coating, potters in 18th century England, particularly from Staffordshire and Leeds, created a relatively inexpensive substitute for porcelain. Josiah Wedgwood’s production of what was called pearlware was so prolific by 1780, that his mass- produced transferware was exported throughout Europe and undercut the more expensively produced tin-glazed, hand-painted earthenware.
When reviewing auction values for vintage lead-glaze or tin-glaze earthenware, it doesn’t seem as if there is a significant difference in the final hammer prices. The style, period, age and condition dictate what is more collectible.
Tin-glazed earthenware doesn’t hold up as well as lead glaze, however. Edges, posts and the feet of tin-glazed objects are prone to crack and decay more often than the harder edge lead-glaze pottery.
While most early tin-glaze and lead-glaze pottery have higher auction values, a resurgence in replicating early Renaissance tin-glaze pottery in Italy in the early 20th century can be an alternative. Artists such as Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Alan Caiger-Smith and others from the 1920s to the 1950s can be the start of an alternative collection. Even Picasso has his own brand of tin-glaze earthenware design.
There is a lot more to glazed earthenware to discover. With so many design elements and periods to choose from, tin-glaze and lead-glaze earthenware easily lends itself to the collector mantra: Collect what you like first.
Everything needed to outfit a home or office in sleek midcentury modern décor is offered in a Jasper52 online auction to be conducted Tuesday, Sept. 10. Italian designed furniture and futuristic lighting are featured in this 100-lot auction.
View the auction here.
Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.
Best-selling author Beth Macy has been quoted: “You just keep shining a light and hoping people will start to pay attention.” People will have no trouble paying attention to the collection of 20th century French lighting being offered in a Jasper52 online auction on Wednesday, April 17. Stunningly beautiful chandeliers, sconces, and table and floor lamps are included in the 107-lot auction.
View the auction here.
Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.
With the month of May now upon us, it won’t be long until we’re spending summer days in the garden and evenings out on the patio. If do-it-yourself programs and Pinterest postings are any indication, there’s no shortage of ideas for incorporating personal style and decorating flair into your outdoor space.
Antique and vintage garden accessories and repurposed goods to use and enjoy in outdoor settings are not a new concept. Although the roots of this practice may run deep, the rules of application today seem to afford greater flexibility.
Simply put, if classic planters, urns, birdbaths and patio furniture are top of mind, there are plenty of options. Or, if the idea of transforming traditional with a personal touch is appealing, there are ideas and options for that, as well.
This also means the patriotic look is sometimes, often viewed only in association with Memorial Day and Independence Day festivities, need not be confined to a long weekend. It can be a central theme or a spectacular accent to an outdoor entertainment space, all summer long.
Stars with a decidedly folk-art flair, like the 19th-century iron star windmill weight offered by Urban Country, will give a star-filled sky competition for your attention. Whether star-shape items serve the purpose of holding items in place on a patio table, or simply adorn a shed, fence, or garage, the versatility adds an exciting extra dimension.
Figural accessories have appeared as garden ornaments for generations, with the earliest ones probably being those of a religious nature. Other popular themes for garden antiques have included cultural icons, military heroes, and other familiar figures of their day.
An example of a military design is this circa-1940 sailor whirligig. It is made of carved, painted wood and has a brimmed hat made of tin. Positioned on a metal stand, it measures 18 inches high by 9½ inches wide.
If any outdoor piece is considered folk-art royalty, it’s the weathervane. Although in most cases this welcome backyard resident is no longer seen serving its original purpose, it remains highly sought after. Surface indications of what such coveted examples of once-practical folk art have “weathered” does not seem to lessen their appeal. If anything, it adds to their character and charm.
For example, a circa-1880 weathervane of a horse in running stride, made of cast zinc and molded copper by J.W. Fiske Ironworks, New York, was a highlight of Jasper52’s May 7 auction and quickly attracted bids. The weathervane displays original verdigris patina – which can only come from the natural aging process – with traces of attractive gilt.
Another utilitarian type of garden antique is a sundial, like this one decorated with the Latin phrase “Tempus Fugit,” or “Time Flies.”
Antique and vintage garden ornaments add special distinctive charm to any yard and patio scene, but it should be kept in mind that not every object can withstand the elements without some preventative measures being taken. In an article penned by Dennis Gaffney for Antiques Roadshow, the author of “Antique Garden Ornament, Two Centuries of American Taste,” Barbara Israel shares a few words of advice. Four points paraphrasing Israel’s advice include:
- Take steps to prevent damage from occurring. It’s easier and more affordable than fixing damage that has already occurred.
- Keep statues off the ground during winter months and wrap them in a breathable, weatherproof material.
- Avoid placing iron ornaments on marble to prevent rusty imprints.
- In the case of all garden ornaments, display and enjoy them in season but store them safely, away from the effects of winter weather during the off-season.
As part of the red-hot globalism trend, “tribal style” – exotic, eclectic and influenced by travel – has spread from fashion to home decor. There’s a caravan of interesting furniture and accessories that work in any space, from the sleek and contemporary to the simple and functional.
“It’s a look that’s meant to reflect the places you’ve been and the decorative objects you brought home,” says New York designer Elaine Griffin. “And it’s perfectly fine if you’ve voyaged no further than the Internet, in the comfort of your living room.”
Rugs are a big part of the style, and not just on the floor. Griffin says “the flat-weave kilim and dhurrie rugs that are now back with a vengeance move stylishly onto upholstered chairs, sofas and ottomans.”
Kilim rugs are admired for their bold, geometric flat-weave patterns. They’ve been hand-woven for generations in Turkey, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
A lot of their appeal lies in the bold motifs and pigment dyes, with elements like wolf’s mouths, stars and fertility symbols interpreted in geometric patterns. Back in Victorian England, smoking rooms and nooks were rife with kilim-covered furniture.
British manufacturer George Smith is known for kilim upholstery marked by careful pattern alignment and crisply tucked edges. They make a range of armchairs and benches covered in detailed modern and vintage Turkish flat-weaves. Karma Living’s collection of smartly styled midcentury modern chairs and footstools are upholstered in bold strips and tribal patterns.
Both new and antique versions are interesting, working well not only as upholstery, but as wall hangings or table coverings. The handcrafted nature of kilims, Oriental and rag rugs plays well with woods and metals. White walls make them pop, while more saturated hues are complementary frames.
Joss & Main’s style director, Donna Garlough, says pouf ottomans are one of her favorite twists on the Bohemian-inspired trend.
“They’re a great way to add a pop of pattern to a room, and you can use them for extra seating if you’re having a party,” she says.
An added bonus of these materials is that they’re pretty tightly woven and durable, and the bright patterns often camouflage stains.
“You don’t have to worry as much about a toddler spilling juice on a kilim-covered cocktail ottoman as you would if the upholstery were linen or leather,” Garlough says.
Atlanta-based artist and textile designer Beth Lacefield has done a collection of kilim poufs for Surya in both muted tones and vibrant hues like raspberry, burnt orange and olive green.
Boston designer Jill Rosenwald’s pouf collection for the retailer is also inspired by Indian flat-weave rugs, with sophisticated chocolate browns, grays and other muted hues.
Crafters will find lots of ideas online for turning inexpensive rag rugs from big box stores into floor pillows, headboard covers and benches.
Courtney Schutz, a designer from Point Reyes, California, turned a staid, traditional, upholstered bench into a fun piece for a girls’ room by gilding the legs and covering the seat with a gumball-colored rag rug.
At Style Me Pretty, Toronto designer Jacquelyn Clark offers a simple tutorial on sewing throw-rug pieces into a square, filling it with foam beads, and then closing it up with thread or a zipper to make a big pillow.
While the kilims have an earthy rusticity, distressed wool, linen or silk rugs can make a more elegant piece. Pottery Barn has a cotton velvet line inspired by Persian carpeting. And West Elm‘s Ornament velvet pouf comes in sophisticated, soothing hues of ivory or platinum.
By KIM COOK, Associated Press
Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.