- type Slipware
Typically, a thin, buff-bodied earthenware coated with
white and dark slips and decorated with trailed, combed, or marbled designs.
Generally, the white slip covers more of the visible surface than the
dark slip. A clear lead glaze gives these vessels a yellowish "background"
color. However, sometimes the visible proportion of light and dark slips
is reversed, producing a brown vessel with yellow decorations.
Slipware was being made in the Staffordshire region
by the mid-17th century. The first well-known
Staffordshire slipware products were the elaborately decorated ornamental
dishes and chargers popularly called Toft Ware, after the Toft family
of potters, although many other individuals also made these vessels. They
were in production by around 1660, and continued to be made into the 1720s.
They are very rare on archaeological sites (Barker 2001:84; Grigsby 1993:
38; Lewis 1999: 24-27; Noël Hume 1970:136). Sherds from a Toft vessel
were recovered from the Middle Plantation site in Anne Arundel County,
Maryland (Doepkens 1991:153).
By the last quarter of the 17th century, the production of more utilitarian trailed and combed vessels
was begun. These pieces were mostly intended for poor to middle class
kitchens and dining tables, as well as for use in taverns. Generally fine,
well-executed combed slipwares date to the earlier colonial period, while
coarser versions tend to date later. These Staffordshire-type slipwares
were widely exported to America until the 1770s, although simple trailed
wares continued to be made in England into the 19th century (Grigsby 1993:8, 53; Noël Hume 1970: 134-135).
Staffordshire-type slipware is an earthenware. It often has inclusions
of fine sand and other materials, and can be somewhat porous. It generally
has a buff to yellow body, although red or agate fabrics can also occur.
On some pieces, pink clay or grog is added to the lighter-colored clay.
Staffordshire-type vessels were made in two ways: thrown on a wheel, or
press molded. In press molding, a flat, pancake-like "bat" of
raw clay is shaped over a convex mold to form the vessel (Barker 2001:75;
Cooper 1968:99; Lewis 1999:31; Noël Hume 1970:134-135).
A clear lead glaze was applied to these vessels. It generally appears
to be yellowish as a result of iron inclusions in the glaze, and because
of the underlying buff fabrics and white slips that characterize Staffordshire-type
wares. On flat vessels, the glaze is often on the interior only, and the
bases of most Staffordshire-type slipware pieces are unglazed (Erickson
and Hunter 2001:98; Grigsby 1993:39, 56).
Several steps were involved in decorating a Staffordshire-type slipware
vessel. First, the piece was coated with a white or dark slip (and occasionally
both colors were used to cover a single vessel). Next, tubes were used
to apply slip in a contrasting color. This slip was used to create the
designs. On Toft-type dishes, on pieces with simple designs, and on vessels
with molded reliefs, the decorated surface usually was first coated with
a white slip. Darker slip, sometimes in several different shades, was
then applied. On combed or marbled pieces, the dark slip was applied first,
then wide bands of white slip were added. These bands often covered a
large portion of the vessel, so that the finished piece appeared to have
dark designs on a light background. Sometimes vessels were reverse decorated,
with simple yellow designs on a dark brown or black background. As a general
rule, only the interior of a flatware vessel was decorated, while on many
hollowwares only the exterior was decorated (Cooper 1968; Erickson and
Hunter 2001:101-113; Grigsby 1993).
Various techniques were employed to decorate vessels,
and were sometimes used in combination on a single piece. The most basic
technique is called trailing. This entails using a tube or quill to trail
lines or dots of slip across a vessel. Designs included geometric or abstract
patterns, flowers and animals, and human figures. Initials, words, and
dates also appeared. Sometimes, simple dots predominated, especially on
hollowwares. In some cases, small slip dots were placed on top of lines
of slip in a contrasting color, a process called "jeweling."
By the second half of the 18th century,
simple straight or wavy line designs were common on flatwares. The stripes
on these pieces tended to get straighter and wider through time. Many
of the "Toft" dishes and chargers from the 17th and early 18th centuries had a trailed
trellis-like design around their rims (Erickson and Hunter 2001:111; Grigsby
1993:46-56; Noël Hume 1970:135).
Two other decorative techniques, combing and marbling,
are commonly found on Staffordshire-type sherds from American sites. Combing,
also known as feathering, was created by drawing a pointed tool through
bands of wet trailed slip, resulting in patterns of peaks and troughs.
It was employed on both flat and hollow form vessels. Marbling entailed
the twisting, or "joggling," of a vessel coated with wet trailed
slip, which caused the slip trails to run across the piece and form abstract
patterns. In the 17th and 18th centuries, marbled designs were sometimes called "agate." Among
excavated examples from Williamsburg, marbling is most commonly seen on
flat round dishes, with blotches of green occasionally present. Marbling
can also be found on hollowwares. Combed and marbled designs tended to
be more elaborate and fine-grained on early pieces than on later 18thcentury
vessels. The designs on the earlier pieces also tend to have more of a
vertical appearance, while on the later wares the combing often goes around
the vessel horizontally (Grigsby 1993:17-18, 56-61; Noël Hume 1970:135).
Another decoration technique involved relief impressions. The impressions
came in a vast variety of forms, including dates and words. Animal and
human or anthropomorphic figures were popular. These designs were stamped
or rouletted onto a vessel, or created when a dish was formed over an
incised press mold. Slip was then applied to the low portions of the reliefs.
Sometimes the reliefs remained unslipped, or the slip was applied in a
pattern that did not follow the relief. Relief decoration developed in
the mid-17th century and continued in
use through the mid-18th century, but
was most popular in the late 17th and
early 18th centuries (Grigsby 1993:39-45).
Sgrafitto designs, in which a tool is used to cut through a slip coating,
revealing the underlying body, are occasionally found on Staffordshire-type
vessels. In some cases, the body fabric consists of mixed clays of different
colors (Grigsby 1993:62).
Staffordshire-type slipware comes in a wide variety of utilitarian and
ornamental forms. Among these are cups, tygs, mugs, posset pots, puzzle
jugs, bowls, drug jars, honey pots, teapots, jugs, sweetmeat dishes, baking
dishes, decorative dishes and plates, candlesticks, chamber pots, miniature
cradles that were given to newlyweds, statues, and money boxes (Noël Hume1970;
Grigsby 1993; Lewis 1999). Press-molded combed dishes were the most common
Staffordshire product after 1740 (Grigsby 1993:52). Flat forms were often
coggled or crimped to form "piecrust" impressions around the
rim (Noël Hume 1970:137).
2001; Cooper 1968; Doepkens 1991; Erickson
and Hunter 2001; Grigsby
1993; Lewis 1999; Noël Hume 1970, 2001.
Although Staffordshire and the surrounding Midlands counties produced
large quantities of slipware in the 17th and 18thcenturies, other English centers, such as Bristol, Donyatt, and Yorkshire, made wares virtually indistinguishable from those of Staffordshire (Noël Hume 1970:134, 2001: 83; Grigsby 1993:39, 52, 60). For this reason, the term "Staffordshire-type"is used here.