Posts Tagged ‘tin-glazed pottery’

Erin Go Bragh

February 9, 2014

Ireland might not be the first stop on most people’s tour of historic tin-glazed pottery centers.  But surprises await even on the byways of pottery history…

Irish delftware production began in Belfast around 1697.  Coincidentally, a large deposit of particularly well suited high lime content clay was easily accessible at nearby Carrick Fergus.  This Carrick Fergus clay was so well suited to the job that most English delftware potteries imported it for their own work.  Delft potters (in Holland, that is) imported clay from Norwich, England and mixed it half and half with their own deposits.  But Delft prohibited exportation of it’s own clay to other places.

Delftware potters of Lambeth, England saw an opportunity in the early 1700’s to cut into Belfast’s market.  They hired John Bird to set up a delftware shop in Dublin.  His first kiln load failed, by all accounts, in a particularly “spectacular” fashion.  Given the history of kiln failures, this must have been quite a failure.  John was immediately fired.

John Bird had developed a special firebox design for his kilns, using coal as fuel.   John promised to freely share his coal firing technology as part of his original deal with his backers.  John’s patent is the first recorded use of a coal fired kiln.  The technology rapidly spread throughout England and beyond.

Irish delftware sales agents travelled with England’s mercenary armies, virtual mobile towns, operating in the North American colonies during the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years War).  A large number of Scottish and Irish mercenaries were drafted for the war effort.  Once on American soil, these mercenaries were told to stay (England wanted them out of the way back home).  The ex-pats turned to Ireland for their pottery needs when they settled into villages after the Treaties of Paris and Hubertusburg ended the war in 1763.  What marketing!

The Scotch Irish mercenaries hated England as a result of their abandonment by the crown.  Their presence in the colonies added considerable fuel to the growing revolutionary fervor.  But that, as they say, is another story altogether…

Erin Go Bragh!

Reading:
English & Irish Delftware.  1570 – 1840.  Aileen Dawson.  British Museum Press/London.  2010.

Fist Fights

January 26, 2014

A question arises when pondering the utter chaos currently unfolding in war torn areas across the globe: Where did they get all those guns?  The modern world is flooded with weaponry.  Narrowly defined Second Amendment arguments notwithstanding, a gigantic (and barely regulated) weapons industry makes a damned good profit off of death and destruction.  It wasn’t always like this… 

Anyway, once upon a time an intense rivalry existed between potters in the port city of Vila Nova, Portugal.  Vila Nova was home to a booming tin glazed pottery export industry about 100 years before northern European ‘delftware’ swept all before it.

Not much is written in English about Portuguese pottery.  Lisbon was the first and biggest production center.  As Lisbon’s reputation grew, potters in other areas got in on the trade.  Just before Portuguese independence from Spain in 1635 a huge spike in popularity occurred.  Suddenly all Portuguese, rich and poor, used tin glazed ware.  Most of it was plain, and much of that was intended for convents (Portugal had lots of convents).  But the blue and white stuff was the best in the world at the time.

Vila Nova was well suited for shipping pottery to other places, so potters there wanted in.  The trouble was, they had no clay.  They imported clay from Lisbon.  Vila Nova potters seem to have had no mutually accepted way of dividing up the shipments, except one.  It was not uncommon for fist fights to break out at the docks.  The biggest fists got first in line.

Quality tanked once tin glazing spread to the rest of Europe.  From then on Portugal’s potters basically copied whatever was popular at the time.  And after the rise of Delft, Portuguese wares were mostly directed to their own rural market.

Back on the Vila Nova docks, the potters could have resorted to the courts to settle their differences had they thought to draw up legal contracts for purchasing clay.  But lawyers often get short shrift for hawking their peculiar ‘wares.’ Still, I’d prefer a lawyer’s method of conflict resolution over fist fights.  Even more so over today’s facile method of simply blowing someone’s head off.

Reading:

Portuguese Faience in England and Ireland (British Archaeological Reports International Series).  Tania Manuel Casimiro.   British Archaeological Reports/London.  2011.

 

The Delft Widow

May 15, 2011

Once upon a time, a royal heiress named Jacqueline threw some small jugs she made out the window of a tower she was trapped in.  Thus began pottery making in Holland…

The story loses something in translation.  Actually, it’s just a story.  Holland’s rise to pottery fame (it began over a millennia before) was through the absence of beer.  The Dutch town of Delft’s brewing industry faded in the 1600’s.  Potters claimed the empty buildings.  They gave their new factories colorful names and made tin-glazed ware synonymous with their town’s name.

In 1658 Wouter van Eenhoom began a pottery in an old brewery, dubbing it “The Greek A.”  The factory went to his son in 1674.  The son’s widow took it over nine years later.  “The Metal Pot,” which until 1638 was the “De Ham” brewery, was also periodically owned by widows.  Egbert Huygeusz Sas started “The Golden Boat” in 1613.  His widow ultimately inherited it.

Many “widows” owned Delft pottery factories at one time or other: The Fortune, The Hart, The Young Moor’s Head, The Old Moor’s Head, The Ewer, The Porcelain Bottle…

These widows weren’t mere accidental owners.  Pottery ownership required membership in the Guild of St. Luke.  The Guild kept strict control over the quantity and quality of potteries within it’s domain.  Applicants had to prove their pottery making abilities.

Cornelius van der Hoeve began The Porcelain Claw in 1662.  His foreman, and later partner, was a woman named Oette van Schaen.  In 1668 van der Hoeve was succeeded by Cornelia van Schoonhove.  Just before her death, Cornelia ceded the pottery to her sister, Marie van Schoonhove.  Marie was succeeded by Bettje van Schoonhove.

The Two Poinards was begun and owned for 35 years by Barbara Rottewel.  Her husband, Simon Mes, was not a potter at all but a notary.  Her son succeeded her, then his widow.  Between 1771 – 1790 four Delemer sisters, previously faience dealers, renamed it The Three Bells and ran it as a soft paste porcelain factory.

It isn’t necessary to rely on tales of damsels in distress to recognize the role women played in Delft’s ceramic history.  Nor is it necessary to kill off your husband.  Just a pleasant afternoon of reading is all you need.

Readings:
Delftware, Dutch And English. N. Hudson Moore.  Frederick A. Strokes Company/New York. 1908.

The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain.  Reginald Hawthorn.  Haggar Books/New York.  1960.