Posts Tagged ‘Transfer Print’

41°43 55″N 49°56 45″W

October 15, 2011

Chamber pots elicit more interest from historians than almost any other pottery type.  Maybe it’s just that “potty humor” is so hard to resist, even for professionals.  Historians and especially archeologists would counter that chamber pots provide excellent dating of sites.  Entire chronologies of occupation can be built on the progression of chamber pot styles found at any given location.

The general picture (as relating to England’s North American Colonies) goes sort of like this:

  • Early 17th century, Westerwald grey stoneware chambers are common;
  • Around 1660, Westerwald with manganese decoration begins;
  • After 1689, Rhenish salt glazed chambers arrive  thanks to the co-regency of William and Mary (The sheer volume of German stoneware chambers found here conjures up curious images of ships loaded with chamber pots thrashing their way across the Atlantic.);
  • Around 1700, Delft gets into the market;
  • By the 1740’s, English white salt fired chambers take over;
  • By 1770, Scratch blue is all the rage;
  • Very soon thereafter comes transfer print Creamware;
  • Of course, Chinese export porcelain and local production season the mix.

Chamber pots made very practical – and popular – wedding gifts.  This can be borne out by various endearing sayings written on them such as “Each morning I salute you with a loving caress.”  Or, “When it’s time for you to piss, think of one who gave you this.”  For the biblically minded “Lot’s wife looked back.”  And who could resist a political dig once in a while?  Not Josiah Wedgwood.  While he personally agreed with Prime Minister William Pitt on American independence, he nevertheless saw the profit potential from chambers inscribed “We will shit on Mr. Pitt.”  The list goes on.  And on…

…OK, potty humor.

For me, though, the most powerful emotion that chamber pots elicit is sadness.  I think of the most tragic pot I’ve ever come across.  It’s an ironstone chamber pot.  White, plain, no frills or decorations.  Machine molded probably just before 1912.

By itself, there would be nothing remarkable about this chamber pot.  Except it’s location.  It is sitting perfectly upright on the floor of the Atlantic ocean.  It’s last, and quite probably only user was a passenger on the ill fated RMS Titanic.

Readings:
American Stonewares.  Georgeanna Greer.  Schiffer Publishing Ltd./Exton, PA.  1981.

Ceramics in America.  Quimby, Ian, Ed.  University Press of Virginia/Charlottesville.  1972.

Domestic Pottery of the Northeastern United States, 1625-1850.  Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh, Ed.  Academic Press/New York.  1985.

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

The English Country Pottery, Its History and Techniques.   Peter Brears.  Charles Tuttle Co./Rutland, VT.  1971.

If These Pots Could Talk.  Ivor Noël Hume.  University Press of New England/Hanover, NH.  2001.

North Devon Pottery and its Export to America in the 17th Century.  C. Malcolm Watkins.  Smithsonian Inst./Wash DC.  1960.

Clay in the Hands of the Potter, An exhibition of pottery manufacture in the Rochester and Genesee Valley Region c. 1793-1900.   Rochester Museum and Science Center.  1974.

Stoneware: White Salt-Glazed, Rhenish and Dry Body.  Gérard Gusset.  National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada/Ministry of the Environment, Ottawa, Canada.  1980.

The Art of the Potter.   Diana and J. Garrison Stradling.  Main Street-Universe Books/New York.  1977.

Early New England Potters and Their Wares.  Lura Woodside Watkins.  Harvard Univ Press/Cambridge MA.  1968.

Liberty, December 23, 1801.

July 24, 2009

Once upon a time there was a sailing ship – a two masted bark to be exact – named the U.S.S. Liberty.  An image of this ship was indelibly affixed to the side of a creamware pitcher made shortly after December 23, 1801.

The ship was there because of the technique of transfer printing (ceramic decals), mastered in the early 1760’s by John Sandler and Guy Green of Liverpool, England.  Transfer print creamware from Liverpool was all the rage in the United States from independence till after the War of 1812.  That war’s embargo and its economic havoc ultimately destroyed Liverpool’s potters, and helped Staffordshire become “Pottery to the World.”  But that’s another story…

So there, on December 23, 1801, was the U.S.S. Liberty.  It’s flag proudly flying.  Then came December 24, 1801.  The Liberty was ravaged, dismasted in bloody battle.  This can be surmised because, turning the pitcher around, that scene is revealed on the other side.

My question is, Who ordered this pitcher to be made?  The captain’s widowed wife?  The captain of the other ship involved?  Who, or what, did this ship encounter?  Does the pitcher commemorate a defeat?  Or a victory?  Was it even a real event, or simply an allegory?

In any event, the thing I like about this pitcher is that by asking such questions, I feel I am brought closer to the lives of the people who made and used these items.  I believe that contemplating pottery down through the ages makes this a particularly enjoyable exercise.

Liberty 23 December Pitcher Liberty 24 December

Reading:
Anglo-American Ceramics, Part 1.  Transfer Printed Creamware and Pearlware for the American Market, 1760-1860. David and Linda Arman.  Oakland Press/Portsmouth, RI.  1998.