Stoneware is the roughhewn cousin of porcelain. Like porcelain, it is fired at very high temperatures (1,200 to 1,400 degrees), literally melting the minerals (usually feldspar) within the clay to create a non-porous ceramic. This makes stoneware an excellent container for food storage, which is why so many 19th- and 20th-century stoneware pieces were made in the shapes of crocks, jugs, jars, and other household items. Stoneware also has terrific insulating properties, which means it keeps items cool, but can also handle the heat.
In the late 1700s, Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potteries popularized the ware. Because it is non-porous, stoneware could be used unglazed, but most English potteries glazed their pieces by adding salt to the kiln in which the stoneware was being fired. Upon being heated, the salt would vaporize, leaving a glossy layer of sodium silicate on the object.
Just after the Revolutionary War, American potters practiced roughly the same techniques. A rich vein of feldspathic clay ran through Staten Island and New Jersey, so New York and its neighbor became centers for stoneware. Famous 19th-century potter families included Morgan of New Jersey and Crolius and Remmey of New York. Farther afield there were the Nortons of Vermont and Hamiltons of Pennsylvania. All produced egg-shaped jugs, barrel-shaped water coolers, and cylindrical butter churns.
Since salt glazing was not a perfect science, potters in northern New York devised a brown liquid known as Albany slip to seal the interiors of their pieces. Sometimes the slip was also poured over the outside of items to give them a darker hue and enable potters to scratch designs and legends onto their surfaces. Toward the end of the 19th century, spongeware glazing treatments were also found on stoneware.
Though initially dominated by potters, a few factories used stoneware to produce commodities like sewer tiles. For collectors, one of the most interesting footnotes to this aspect of U.S. stoneware history is what happened at the end of a factory’s shift. That’s when workers would fashion everything from animals to busts to baseballs from the leftover clay. Naturally these pieces are highly prized by contemporary stoneware collectors.
Another stoneware player of interest to collectors was Anna Pottery of Illinois. From 1859 until 1896, the Kirkpatrick brothers who ran the pottery made stoneware tobacco pipes, butter churns, storage jugs and jars, and hanging baskets. Today, though, they are best known for their so-called railroad pigs and snake jars.
Usually fashioned as a horizontal flask, with a stopper plugging its end, the kneeling white or brownish pigs featured railroad routes and local, geographic maps on their ample sides, incised and then highlighted with a soft cobalt glaze. Sometimes the names of routes and elaborate, folk-art-like inscriptions would be written on the pig’s back, other times rivers would be depicted coursing through the porcine countryside...
The Kirkpatrick’s other signature item was the snake jar or jug, which betrayed Wallace Kirkpatrick’s love of the reptiles. Snake jugs ranged from simple pieces labeled with the words “Little Brown Jug” on the side and a snake coiled around the jug’s neck, to elaborate objects that riffed on the political cartoons of Thomas Nast and portrayed New York City’s William Tweed and his cronies as a tangle of slithering serpents.
By 1877, Red Wing Stoneware had been founded in Minnesota. Red Wing produced hand-turned jugs, water coolers, and butter churns, some with capacities of up to 40 gallons. Many of these earliest farmhouse pieces had the classic, glassy, mottled, salt-glazed surfaces that we associate with stoneware of this era.
At first, the decorations of these pieces were limited to a single hand-painted blue flower, a tornado shape, or perhaps a small bird. But in the early 20th century, Red Wing replaced its salt glaze with a zinc glaze known as Bristol. The resulting bone-white surface gave Red Wing food-storage products a clean, sanitary appearance.
Just as importantly, Bristol gave Red Wing’s designers a neutral background for decoration, from the “red wing” that would become the company’s logo to custom designs for advertisers. Red Wing had a great run, but by 1947 demand for stoneware had dropped to the point that Red Wing discontinued the line.
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Religious NewsTrumbull Times, March 6th
sugar scrubs, pillows, in-laid wood cutting boards, sea glass jewelry, bottle openers, wood pallet creations, wire bangle bracelets, natural soaps, knit designs, stoneware, hand sewn accessories, glass bottles made into cheese trays, spoon rests...Read more
Exhibits, Feb. 27-Mar. 5Tallahassee.com, March 5th
George Griffin Pottery Gallery: Individualized functional stoneware by master potter George Griffin. Kitchenware, yard art, lamps and more. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tue. through Sat. Highway 319, Sopchoppy. 962-9311. Goodwood Museum and Gardens: 9 ...Read more
Second Annual Empty Bowls ProjectCambridge Community Television, March 4th
Diners can choose from more than 100 unique, high-fire stoneware pottery bowls which are all dishwasher and oven safe. “We are grateful to be the recipients of the artists' and restaurants' generosity,” Ms. Sandler said. “And we thank Board member Josh ...Read more
Two antique benefit shows this weekendAllentown Morning Call, March 4th
The show will feature 35 to 40 exhibitors featuring country furniture, early textiles, folk art, early tools, toys, historical china, blue decorated stoneware, jewelry, early kitchen items and lighting, collectibles and more. On Sunday there will be...Read more
Two blocks, four great arts venuesJournal and Courier, March 4th
As usual the shop is filled with beautiful functional and non-functional stoneware and porcelain forms. Shoppers will see everything from mugs to ceramic flowers and perhaps a giraffe or two. The wheel-thrown dinnerware by Gail Johnston is always...Read more
New York's Top Restaurants Love Jane Herold's CeramicsBloomberg, February 13th
Every uni-laden toast point seems to arrive on handmade plates, but my favorite pieces tend to be the work of one extraordinary potter: Jane Herold. Herold has made one-of-a-kind stoneware pieces for restaurants all over town, including Semilla, The...Read more
Wood effect floor tiles for imagining new interiorsFloornature.com, February 9th
The wood look porcelain floor tiles in Ariostea's High-Tech Woods and High-Tech Innovative Slabs collection combine the most sophisticated technical performance of porcelain with the emotions that only natural wood can convey: warmth, strength and ...Read more
Stoneware and Silver Demonstration by Mare AkanaAtlantic Highlands Herald, February 6th
ARTIST'S BIO – MARE AKANAMare Akana is a multi-media artist whose work focuses on her lifelong passion: horses and the sea. A native of Honolulu, HI, she grew up exploring tide pools and observing sea creatures in the reef. She has worked with horses ...Read more