A pottery primer

Elizabeth Powell has an extensive knowledge of ceramics, and she presented a primer on the basics of how to identify the most sought-after types.

Faience is very collectible today. It is a hand-painted tin-glazed earthenware synonymous with French Country style. It comes mostly from Italy and France. The most popular Faience ware comes from the French town of Quimper and often features a hand-painted Breton (a peasant man or woman) figurine or rooster.

In England and Holland, Faience is known as Delftware or Delft. Dutch Delft is typically blue and white with themes such as rabbits, windmills and tulips.

Victorian (English) Majolica is also tin-glazed earthenware that is painted over a low-relief decoration. Introduced at the Crystal Palace at the London Great Exhibition in 1851, Majolica became immensely popular in Europe and America for its bright colors and whimsical designs derived from mythology, nature and oceanic themes. Victorian Majolica was a revival of 15th century Italian Renaissance ceramics named for the island of Maiolica. Highly collectible items today include oyster plates, jardinieres and asparagus servers.

Creamware was a yellow-white tin-glazed earthenware that looked close to porcelain. It was popularized by the potter Josiah Wedgwood and sold as a utilitarian ware as it was strong and attractive. It featured pierced and molded designs on a cream background. Queensware was another term for a specific creamware pattern as Queen Charlotte ordered a set of service ware and popularity ensued. Pearl ware was yet another white pottery developed to mimic porcelain.

Limoges is fine French porcelain, as a kaolin source was finally discovered in Europe in the town of Limoges, France, and the pottery is collectively referred to as same name as the city. Haviland – a famous Limoges pottery – produced (and continues to produce) some of the most iconic art nouveau ceramics in the world including U.S. Presidential porcelain service ware.

Transferware – a popular ceramic collectible – refers to a printing process where ink is applied to copper plates, transferred to paper and while wet, again transferred to earthenware, ironstone, bone china or porcelain. While most transferware is blue and white (including flow blue), there are multiple colorways and hundreds of transferware patterns such as popular Blue Willow, Spode Italian and Asiatic Pheasant just to name a few – and many people collect specific patterns as well as mix and match. Both old and new transferware patterns are still produced today such as Woodland Spode, a polychrome (multicolor) transferware design decorated with forest animals.

While there were potteries all over England, most of the English potters were centered in Staffordshire which encompasses several towns with local availability of clay, salt lead (for glazing) and coal. Pottery is still produced in Staffordshire to this day. English potters not only copied Chinese designs, but also Japanese pottery known as Imari (named after the seaport from which it was exported) which incorporated cobalt rust and gold colors. Interestingly enough, the Chinese copied Imari as well- Imari patterns are highly collectible from England, Japan and China alike.

Stoneware, saltware, drabware and redwares are other types of earthenware that were used for utilitarian crocks in early colonial America. Many collectors seek out this pottery for its historical significance, rustic style and grainy aesthetic.