Skip to Content


Pottery and porcelain

Ceramic Manufacture & Decoration

  Ceramics Manufacture  Ceramics are made by baking various types of clay in a kiln. The type of pottery produced depends on the clay and the temperature of firing in the kiln. There are three basic types of pottery: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. (Pottery is any ceramic shaped as a vessel, such as a pot […]  Continue Reading »

Classical Greek & Roman Antiquites

Ancient Greek Ceramics During the Archaic period (700-480 BC), pottery was decorated in black and red by firing different clays together (not by painting). Up to about 530BC, the decoration was done in black on a red background; after 530 BC, the decoration was done in red on a black background. The heads of all […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ceramics – Antiquity

  Bronze Age (1500-476 BC} Chinese Bronze Age pottery was mainly grey but small quantities of white pottery were produced. This “proto-porcelain” seems to have been produced almost by chance. Kaolin (the main constituent of porcelain) was relatively common and the temperature required to smelt bronze (1100 degrees C) happens to be close to the […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ceramics – Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

During the Ming Dynasty, the royal family directly controlled the government pottery kilns. As a result these had the best materials and the best craftsmen. Jingdezhen became the national porcelain centre. The general characteristics of Ming porcelain are a fine-grained body, white colour tinted beige on the unglazed footring. Glazes are usually fairly thick and […]  Continue Reading »

Chinese Ceramics – Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912)

After the disruption of the Manchu invasion, Jingdezhen was re-established as the porcelain centre and re-organised on a production-line basis. Manufacture and decoration were separated into a number of specialist operations. Even the decoration of a single pot was split up with one man painting flowers, another trees, and so on. To achieve this, a […]  Continue Reading »

Islamic Ceramics

In the seventh century, Arab armies created an empire in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. Artisans were able to move easily between the various states of this empire sharing ideas and techniques. One result was that for almost a thousand years, the Islamic countries produced some of the world’s finest ceramics. The earliest […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Faience

From Italy, manufacture of tin-glazed painted pottery spread to France, where it was referred to as “faience” after the Italian town of Faenza from which it was imported.  Faience was made in France from the 14th century but it took the arrival of Italian migrants in the early 16th  century to stimulate production.  Factories were […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Majolica

European pottery from before the Renaissance is scarce because the belief that the Black Death could be transmitted by pottery vessels led to their mass destruction. In the 15th century, tin-glazed wares, often with a metallic lustre, based on Moorish techniques, were being produced in Spain mainly for storage jars. The early Spanish tin-glazed wares […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Quimper

Quimper in Brittany has been a centre of pottery production since the 17th century. Quimper’s first factory was established in 1695 by Jean-Baptiste Bousquet. At first the factory made blue and white faience but in 1743 the factory was taken over by Pierre Caussy who began making chinoiserie and rococo pieces in the Rouen style. […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Delft

Tin-glazed pottery also reached the Netherlands, probably through Italian migrants who settled in the Netherlands in 1508. Factories were set up in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Haarlem and The Hague but, by the early 17th century, Delft became the predominant centre.  At the beginning of the 17th century, two ships arrived in Delft laden with cargoes of […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Gouda

From about 1900, a number of factories in Gouda, Holland, began producing a unique type of ware which represented a transition between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Earlier pieces had stylised flower patterns; more realistic flowers representations appeared later. Early pieces also used a lighter coloured matt glaze. Production slowed after the mid-1930s.    Gouda […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Gzhel

Gzhel pottery began in the 14th century with wares made by potters in their homes in a group of villages located southeast of Moscow. These potters soon started to organize into workshops which eventually became a factory. The earliest pieces were earthenware, painted solid white with distinctive blue designs. Majolica pottery, with coloured glaze designs […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Meissen

In the early 1700s, Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, decided that he should be able to manufacture porcelain to compete with the Chinese. He forcibly enlisted an alchemist, Frederich Bottger, to assist him in finding the formula. In 1708, Bottger produced a near-porcelain, using alabaster. In 1710, Augustus established the Royal Saxon Porcelain factory […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Sevres

In 1745, the French had established a factory at Vincennes with a 20-year monopoly on the production of porcelain in the style of Meissen. In 1748, the technique for gilding porcelain was discovered and, from 1749, gilding. In 1752, an underglaze blue, called “bleu lapis”, was introduced. From that time, the use of dark blue […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Royal Copenhagen

The first ceramic factory in Copenhagen was established in 1722 to make blue and white pottery in the Delft style. A second factory was set up in 1755 to produce soft paste porcelain. In 1760, Louis Fournier introduced techniques he had learned at Sevres and the reputation of the Danish factory began to spread. In […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Russian Imperial Porcelain

The first porcelain manufactory in Russia was founded in 1744. The factory produced wares exclusively for the Russian Imperial court and the ruling Romanov family. This Russian porcelain was similar to German porcelain in composition, although made from of Russian ingredients. In the beginning, its decoration was monochrome and simple but by the 1760s, fine […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Villeroy & Boch

François Boch and his three sons set up a pottery company in the village of Audun le Tiche in the Duchy of Lorraine (now in France) in 1748. In 1766, one of François’ sons, Pierre-Joseph, received authority from Empress Maria Theresia of Austria to set up a “Manufacture Impériale et Royale” in nearby Luxembourg to […]  Continue Reading »

European Ceramics – Biedermeier (KPM)

The period after the Napoleonic period in the Austro-Hungarian Empire saw the rise of the middle classes, culminating in a series of revolutions in 1848. The style of porcelain developed for the newly influential middle class became known as “Biedermeier” (originally a derogatory term. The Biedermeier style was a simplified version of the neo-classical style […]  Continue Reading »

English Pottery

Until the 16th century, British potters produced only simple, practical earthenware vessels. In the middle of that century, three potters from Antwerp, in Flanders, set up a factory in London to produce tin-glazed earthenware. Their wares became known as “delftware”. Despite the name, English delftware was not only influenced by the Dutch., but also by […]  Continue Reading »

English Porcelain

Porcelain was produced in England from the late 1740s, first at Chelsea and soon afterwards at Derby, Bow.and elsewhere. The early products included figures (particularly from Bow and Derby) and dinnerware (from Bow). The Chelsea factory was established by Nicholas Sprimont, a silversmith, and initially produced pieces strongly influenced by silverware designs. During the 1850s, […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Staffordshire

Before 1775, English law allowed white clay to be used only for porcelain. When this restriction was removed, potters began to use the white clay found in Staffordshire to produce a variety of salt-glazed domestic wares and figurines. These potters included Thomas Whieldon, who had been a partner of Josiah Wedgwood, and Wheildon’s assistant Ralph […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Wedgewood

In the 1750s, Thomas Whieldon rediscovered the technique of decorating with coloured lead glazes, initially limited to green, grey, brown and slate blue. In 1754, Josiah Wedgwood joined Whieldon as a partner and, in 1758, established his own business. Wedgwood developed a lightweight, lead-glazed, cream coloured earthenware that he called “creamware”. This was widely copied […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – William Adams

William Adams & Sons was established in 1769. It is among the oldest names in the Staffordshire pottery industry. William Adams was the son of John Adams who had opened a pottery business in Staffordshire which became known as the Brick House Works. John Adams company primarily focused on reproducing designs that were being imported […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Johnson Brothers

  In 1883 at a small factory called the Charles Street Works in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Frederick and Alfred, established a partnership called Johnson Brothers for the manufacture of durable earthenware, which they called “White Granite”. In 1888, another brother, Henry, joined the firm. They began producing underglaze printed ware for which they became famous. By […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Carlton Ware

In 1890, James Wiltshaw, James Robinson and William Robinson formed a partnership to purchase the Copeland Street Works in Stoke-on-Trent. The factory was well equipped but had been occupied by a series of unsuccessful partnership. Wiltshaw & Robinson began manufacturing a range of useful earthenware items including blue ground wares similar to Royal Worcester, plain […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Shelley China

In 1862, Joseph Ball Shelley became a partner in the firm of Henry Wileman at the Foley China Works in Fenton, Staffordshire. From about 1910, the company began to use the name “Shelley China” on some of its wares and in 1925 it changed its name to Shelley. Shelley China produced a wide range of […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Spode

Josiah Spode established a potworks in Stoke-on-Trent, in 1767. His early products were earthenwares and a range of stonewares including black basalt and jasper, which had been popularised by Josiah Wedgwood. Josiah Spode developed underglaze blue transfer printing on earthenware in 1783–84. In about 1789, his son, also called Josiah, perfected the technique of producing […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Coalport

In 1750, Squire Brown began producing ceramics from clay and coal which was found on his estate, Caughley Hall, in Shropshire. On his death, he was succeeded by his nephew who, in 1772, joined by Thomas Turner, an eminent engraver and the originator of the Willow Pattern. In 1799, the firm was sold to John […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Royal Worcester

A porcelain factory was established at Worcester in 1751 by Dr John Wall. It produced a soft-paste, soapstone porcelain. Its wares, which were more delicately potted than its English rivals, proved immensely popular. The factory excelled at tea and coffee set, jugs, vases and the like. (The soapstone paste was not suitable for large dishes.) […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Royal Doulton

Royal Doulton dates back to 1815 when John Doulton became involved in a pottery in Lambeth, London. John’s son Henry joined the firm in 1835 and the business expanded rapidly producing chemical and industrial ceramics. The success of their sanitary ware business enabled Henry Doulton to attempt more artistic interests. In 1867 he employed George […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Crown Devon

In the early 1870s, Simon Fielding purchased the Railway Works in Stoke-on-Trent but the business failed and was rescued by Simon’s son, Abraham. S Fielding and Co became a successful producer of majolica wares. From the 1880s, they began calling their wares “Crown Devon” and in 1912, they changed their name to Devon Pottery. From […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Denby

The Denby Pottery Company, named after the village of Denby in rural Derbyshire, was formed in 1809. Denby’s first products were salt-glazed stoneware bottles and jars. By the 1870s, Denby was producing a wide range of utilitarian stoneware products including telegraph insulators, ink bottles, foot warmers, churns, mortars and pestles, pudding-moulds and water filters, as well […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Maling

The Maling pottery was founded by Robert Maling near Sunderland, in north-east England, in 1762 and transferred to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1817. Robert Maling’s son, Christopher, made the business famous when he developed machinery for manufacturing jam jars. Maling became the world’s largest supplier of jam jars and built the huge Ford ‘B’ Pottery, […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Pilkington’s Lancastrian

  In 1888, four Pilkington brothers, who were colliery owners, encountered excessive quantities of clay while drilling for coal. They were advised by William Burton, a chemist at Wedgwood, that the clay would be suitable for manufacturing decorative tiles. The Pilkiington brothers began making tiles and William Burton joined the company in 1893. William Burton […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Pratt Ware

Pratt Ware is relief decorated, underglaze coloured creamware. It was a mid-priced product made by numerous factories in Staffordshire, Liverpool, Shropshire, Sunderland, Newcastle, Devonshire and in Scotland between about 1780 and 1830. The designs on Pratt Ware items range from sporting and country scenes to nursery rhymes, “morality” portraits of misers and spendthrifts, classical subjects […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Torquay Pottery

The first Torquay pottery, the Watcombe Pottery, was opened in 1869 to make terracotta wares, such as vases, urns and statues, in classical forms. Watcombe Pottery’s example was followed by the Torquay Terracotta Company which made similar wares. The Aller Vale Pottery also began in a similar style but, from the 1890s, was strongly influenced […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Cornish Ware

In 1864, Thomas Goodwin Green, an entrepreneur who had made a fortune in Australia, purchased a Derbyshire pottery and renamed it T G Green and Company. The company flourished to become one of Britain’s largest producers of domestic pottery, hospital and institution wares. In 1926, T G Green introduced an range of blue banded kitchen […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Mochaware

Mochaware is a type of utilitarian pottery decorated with coloured slip bands on a white and buff-colored body. It has branching markings resembling the natural geological markings on moss agate, which was called “mocha stone” because it was imported from the port of Mocha in Yemen. (Mocha coffee came from the same port.) Mocha decoration […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Chintz Wares

At the beginning of the 20th century, all-over floral “chintz” fabrics imported from India became very fashionable. These designs were used to decorate ceramics which also came to be called “chintz”. Early chintz patterns usually had large flowers and exotic birds with rich plumage. By the 1920ss, chintz patters were generally much tighter. Lithography had […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – The Willow Pattern

The Willow Pattern Story There was once a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He employed a secretary, Chang who, while he was attending to his master’s accounts, fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin, who regarded the secretary as unworthy of his daughter. The secretary was banished and […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Toby & Character Jugs

The exact origins of the toby jug are obscure. They first appeared in the 1760s and were most likely named after “Toby Fillpot”, a nickname for someone who was always drinking. The first toby jugs depicted a seated character in a frock coat and three-corned hat nursing a jug of beer on his left knee. […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – William Moorcroft

William Moorcroft began working with the Burslem potter, James MacIntyre, in 1897. In 1903, Moorcroft developed a style known as Florian ware. In this, increasingly fine outlines in slip (liquid clay) are applied to a white clay body. The piece is then fired, glazed and fired again. The result is that the colours and glaze […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Clarice Cliff

Clarice Cliff was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire in 1899. At 13, she became apprenticed to Lingard Webster and Company where she leant to paint on pottery. In 1916, she joined A.J. Wilkinson as a lithographer. Wilkinson’s were already using the vibrant orange and blue colours with which Clarice Cliff came to be associated. In 1927, […]  Continue Reading »

English Ceramics – Susie Cooper

Susie Cooper was born in 1902 in Staffordshire and joined A.E Gray and Company as a production line paintress in 1922. Her talent was quickly recognised and in 1924 she became the resident designer. Her work was characterised by daring use of bright colours and geometric banded patterns. In October 1929, she set up her […]  Continue Reading »

Irish Ceramics – Belleek

In 1857, John Bloomfield, a landowner in County Fermanagh in Ireland, decided to exploit deposits of felspar and kaolin on his property. He formed a partnership with Robert William Armstrong, who had worded with the Worcester porcelain factory, and David McBirney, a merchant, to build a factory in the small town of Belleek. At first […]  Continue Reading »

American Ceramics

Early America colonial ceramics were simple, functional redwares (earthenwares with a rich brown-red colour from the iron oxide in the clay). Initially they were decorated with slip glazed blotches of colour or simple words or names. From about 1760, sgrafitto decoration (scratching a design through a coloured glaze) was used in Pennsylvania. From early in […]  Continue Reading »

American Ceramics – Haviland

There have been five different, but related, Haviland china companies operating in several different countries over more than 170 years. In New York in 1838, David and Daniel Haviland started a china importing company, D G & D Haviland David recognised the demand in America for white bone china in the style which had been […]  Continue Reading »

American Ceramics – Syracuse China

In 1871, the Onondaga Pottery Company was incorporated in Syracuse, New York and purchase the struggling Empire Crockery Manufacturing Company. The company was managed by an English potter, Lyman Clark, who hired English potters and began training local men. The company produced undecorated pottery, mainly stoneware until 1886, when fire destroyed a nearby decorating shop […]  Continue Reading »

American Ceramics – Franciscan China

In 1875, an exceptional clay deposit was discovered in Lincoln, California. The land was purchased by Charles Gladding, Peter McBean and George Chambers who formed Gladding, McBean and Company. In 1928, Dr Andrew Malinovsky developed a high talc, one fire body, using non-crystalline amorphous flux. This innovative ceramic material was patented as “Malinite”. By 1932, […]  Continue Reading »

American Ceramics – Lenox China

In 1889, a young artist-potter, named Walter Scott Lenox, founded a company dedicated to the proposition that an American firm could create the finest china in the world. He possessed a zeal for perfection that he applied to the relentless pursuit of his artistic goals. In the years that followed, Lenox china became the first […]  Continue Reading »