Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Antique English slipware

Slipware is a type of pottery that particularly flourished in England in the 17th century and the early years of the 18th century. Essentially, it is red or buff earthenware decorated with white or coloured slip (diluted clay) that contrasts with the body. A yellowish lead glaze is characteristic.

Decoration took the form of slip-trailing, applied mouldings or sgraffito. In some areas combed (zig-zag), feathered and marbled patterns were favoured from the early 18th century.

 The finest slipwares include large dishes made in Staffordshire, with naive slip-trailed decoration, often showing royal or legendary figures. Tulips became  a popular motif after William of Orange came to the throne in 1689. Thomas Toft was the most important Staffordshire slipware potter. Toft was the acknowledged master of slipware, to whom about 40 pieces are attributed. Some dishes by Toft (c. 1670 - 85) have his name in large slip-trailed letters on the rim. His brother Ralph and his sons Thomas Toft II and James Toft worked in a similar style.

In Wrotham, Kent, where slipware was made from c. 1610 to c. 1710, a reddish clay was used for elaborate mugs (known as 'tygs'), posset pots and other wares, now rare. Wrotham forms include loving cups, candlesticks, and puzzle jugs. The tyg form, which is shown opposite, has the typical Wrotham looped handles ornamented with contrasting colored, thickly slipped and embossed pads of clay. It is easy to imagine much quaffing of ale and rumbustous talk around the smoking hearth. There were also centres of production in Devon - notably Bideford and Barnstaple - where sgraffito decoration was favoured. Slipware was also made in Wales (Glamorgan), Wiltshire, the north of England and Sussex.

 Harlow in Essex was another early pottery site making slip-decorated wares. Known as Metropolitan ware, since a large amount is found in the city of London, these vessels show slip trailing in white on an orange-red clay. Shallow dishes with narrow rims, and drinking vessels and jugs are two main Harlow forms.

Many of the smaller slipware centres were still operating late in the 19th century. Slipware of the later 18th century is poised to rise dramatically in value over the coming years.

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