Dipped refined earthenware is defined by its brightly
colored and often exuberant surface decoration. These surface decorations
were created using clays that had different colors when fired or that
were dyed by the addition of mineral oxides suspended in a liquid solution
known as slip. Slip could be used as a dip for the entire surface of the
vessel or as a substance with which to pour, band, drip or trail designs.
Other designs were created by removing slip in a variety of cut designs
to expose the ceramic body underneath. Dipped wares were the cheapest
hollowware with color decoration available to consumers from the 1780s
through the nineteenth century (Miller 1991). In inventories of the 1820s
and 1830s, dipped earthenwares were sometimes referred to as “Fancy
ceramics” (Priddy 2004:170), although the most common potters’
term for these wares was “dipped” or “dip’t”.
In intervening years, collectors, curators and archaeologists have used
a number of other terms to identify these wares, including annular, mocha,
and banded. Table 1 provides a list of contemporary potters’ and
merchants’ terms for the wares, as well as collectors’ terms
that have been added over the intervening years and terms that are misleading.
Table 1. Dipped Wares Terminology (from Miller
1991:6 and Rickard, personal communication)
and Collectors’ Terms for Dipped Wares
and Merchants’ Terms
|Mocha, moco, mocoe, mocoa
||Tree, fern, seaweed
||Earthworm, worm, wave
|Potters’ term not known
|Potters’ term not known
|Chainband (name of engine turned pattern on dipt ware)
|Bastile (probably name of engine turned pattern on dipt ware)
|French grey (rare term)
|Brick (name of engine turned pattern on dipt ware - rare term)
|Banded, blue banded
Dipped earthenwares were produced between the 1770s and
the end of the nineteenth century (Rickard 2006, Carpentier and Rickard
2001). Since these wares almost never have maker’s marks, they are
difficult to date accurately. Beginning production dates for certain types
of decorations have usually been determined from patents for tools used
in producing the designs or descriptions in dated potter’s records
(Table 2). They can also be dated to some extent by vessel shape, such
as the London/Grecian and double-curve shapes.
Table 2. Some dates associated
with dipped earthenwares.
Type of dipped ware
Beginning production date
End production date
|Solid color slip fields and banded wares
||Early 20th century
||Late 18th century (Rickard 2006:24)
||In decline by first decade of 19th century (Rickard 2006:24)
||c. 1770s (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:116)
||Late 19th century (Rickard 2006:39)
||1790s (Rickard 2006:54)
||1939 (Rickard 2006:54)
|Multi-chambered slip (cat’s eyes, cabling, twigging)
||1811 patent for multi-chambered slip pot (Rickard 2006:13)
||Twigging produced throughout 19th century
||c. 1805 (Rickard 2006:101)
||c. 1840 (Rickard 2006:101)
Slip marbled creamwares [variegated], manufactured in
the 1770s, are the earliest known examples of slip on refined earthenware
(Rickard 2006:4). This type of decoration was also used on the earlier
Staffordshire slipwares and sometimes the surface was combed in addition
to being variegated. The earliest dipped wares, which to some extent replaced
the agate wares popular in the mid-eighteenth century, sought to imitate
geological stones like agate and marble. Later wares were comprised of
more fanciful and abstract designs. Increased simplicity and uniformity
of decoration (i.e. simple banding without additional slip or incised
designs) marked later dipped wares, after circa 1840. This simplification
was a way of cutting the production cost as dipped wares fell from 1.6
times the cost of plain creamware in 1799 down to 1.08 times the cost
of plain creamware by the 1870s (Miller 1991:22).
This essay will use categories for industrial or factory-made
dipped earthenwares as defined by Jonathan Rickard in Mocha and Related
Dipped Wares, 1770-1939 (University Press of New England, 2006).
Excellent descriptions and illustrations of the various techniques used
to produce dipped earthenwares can also be found in Lynne Sussman’s Mocha, Banded, Cat’s Eye, and Other Factory-Made Slipware (1997)
and in Donald Carpentier and Jonathan Rickard’ s “Slip Decoration
in the Age of Industrialization” (2001). Don Carpentier and Jonathan
Rickard have produced an excellent video showing the various ways that
dipped wares were produced (Treat American Craftsmen: Secrets of Traditional
Crafts. Mochaware. East Field Village, East Nassau, New York). Click on each linked category title below to view images for that category.
|Solid Color Slip Fields and Banded Wares
In the simplest form of dipped decoration, colored slip was applied
to green ware to form a solid color field. Slip could be applied
by a blowing bottle and also may have been brushed on while the
vessels were on a lathe. Trimming with a lathe defined the slip edges. (Figure 1) Banding, the application of bands of colored slip to a vessel, was a long-lived decorative technique in dipped earthenwares. Bands of slip were added to the ceramics by trailing them with a slip bottle onto a vessel mounted horizontally on a turning lathe. These wares are sometimes referred to as “annular wares”, a collector’s term not found in contemporary documents. Both of these decorative techniques are almost always used in conjunction with another form of decoration typical of dipped wares (such as rouletting, engine turning, mocha or slip trailing).
Over time, color choices of the potters changed from brighter, earthy tones of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to duller colors like blues and greys (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:132) . Grey, blue and black bands are colors more typical of dipped wares produced in the 1850s (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:128).
Some of the earliest dipped wares displayed variegated surfaces emulating
agate, porphyry and other stone, created when different color slips were
allowed to run and swirl against one another. Sometimes these swirled
slips were further mixed by combing.
The earliest slip colors used on variegated wares were
brown, caramel, rust and blue (rarely) against a cream colored body (Rickard
2006:21). These marbleized surfaces appear on late eighteenth-century
creamwares, rarely on pearlwares, and were often used in combination with
sprig molding. Early nineteenth-century marbled wares included orange
and blue applied in patterns more abstract than geological (Rickard 2006:25).
A variant on marbled slip variegated surfaces was produced using small
dried pieces of clay in several colors. The clay bits were pressed into
a solid color slip field, producing encrusted wares. Sometimes a lathe
was used to smooth the vessel surface. This technique produced a finely-grained
granite-like design called surface agate. Rickard believes that the demand
for variegated wares showed a significant decline in the first decade
of the nineteenth century (2006:24).
|Engine Turned Dipped Wares
Engine turning lathes allowed potters to decorate the surfaces of ceramic
vessels with complex, geometric designs including chevrons, checks, dots,
fluting, interrupted lines and zigzags that cut through the slip to create
these designs. Combining these cut designs with colored slips produced
striking patterns on dipped vessels. After a leather-hard, unfired vessel
was covered or banded with one or more colors of slipped clay, fixed blades
and cams were used to cut designs into the ceramic, revealing the lighter
colored clay body underneath. Alternately, a vessel could be trailed with
a slip (usually dark brown) after an engine turned or rouletted pattern
was added. Using a lathe a second time to shave away the colored slip
from the vessel surface left the darker colored slip in the recessed areas.
This technique is also known as inlaid slip. Rouletted patterns, often
employed around vessel rims, are one of the most common inlaid motifs
Engine turning lathes are believed to have been in use
in ceramic production as early as the 1770s (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:116).
Engine turned dipped earthenwares continued in production into the late
nineteenth century (Rickard 2006:39).
While the term “mocha” has become synonymous with
dipped earthenwares in recent years, this term should only be
used to describe wares decorated with tree-like or dendritic patterns.
These flowing designs, sometimes referred to as “seaweed”
during the nineteenth century, were supposed to resemble agate,
also known as “mocha stone” (Priddy 2004:171). These
motifs were applied using an artist’s brush to release drops
of a “mocha tea” solution containing ingredients such
as urine, tobacco juice, ground iron scale and hops onto the wet
slip-coated surface of the vessel. The design spread instantly
when the acidic solution came into contact with the slip.
Mocha decoration is first mentioned in potter’s
invoices and depicted in pattern books in the last decade of the eighteenth
century (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:122), although it may have been used
as early as the 1780s (Rickard 2006:46). Mocha becomes rather rare on
archaeological sites dating after 1850; however it began being produced
on American yellow ware in the 1840s and continued to around World War
I. In England, mocha production on British tavern mugs continued until
the beginning of World War II when decoration was stopped as part of the
war effort in 1939 (Miller 1991:6).
This category includes designs known as “cat’s-eyes,”
“cabling (or common cable)” and “twigging”. These
designs were produced using a multi-chambered slip cup, which could deliver
three or four different color clay slips simultaneously to the vessel.
The earliest reference to multi-chambered slip pots came in a patent dated
to 1811 (Carpentier and Rickard 2001:126). Since the types of designs
created with multi-chambered slip pots do not appear in the 1792 Hartley
Green & Co. pattern book, it is believed that they were not produced
until the 19th century (Rickard 2006:13).
Cats-eyes are produced from single drops from
a multi-chambered slip cup, while overlapped drops formed a pattern
known as “cabling,” “common cable” or
“earthworm”. The term “finger-trailed”,
used to describe cabling, is a misnomer—these wares were
not finger-trailed. “Twigging,” produced when the
tip of the slip cup was dragged across the vessel surface in a
series of connected, opposing motions, was used as a decorative
technique throughout the nineteenth century (Carpentier and Rickard
2001:128). Sussman (1997:17) describes twigging produced by a
method that is “part trailing and part cat’s eye”.
|Trailed Slip and Offset Decoration
Trailed slip decoration is a direct development from earlier slip trailing
used on coarse earthenwares of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Trailed slip designs incorporated curved lines, dots, squiggles, and representational
images of flowers and leaves. Trailed slip designs were most often created
using a single chamber slip cup, sometimes outfitted with multiple quills
from which slip flowed. Multiple chamber slip cups could also be used
to create multi-colored designs.
Stamped and offset
decoration was created by stamping clay slips
onto the slip bands using tools akin to cookie cutters or using patterned
templates of nail heads dipped into slip (Sussman 1997:10, Rickard 2006).
These stamped designs, almost always circles and dots, are uncommon.
|Dipped Fan Decoration
These motifs have also been called palmate, lollipop, tobacco leaf, medallion,
feather and balloon (Priddy 2004:174, Rickard 2006:99). One method of
producing this design involved filling a small, round shallow container
with different color slips in pie or wedge shaped segments, followed by
dipping the side of the vessel into the slips. After sitting the vessel
upright, gravity would cause the colored slips to run down towards the
base, creating the handle of the fan. Fans could also be created using
only one color of slip. The use of fan decoration began around 1805 and
continued until around 1840 (Rickard 2006:101).
Dipped decoration is found most commonly on English refined white earthenwares,
on North American and English yellow and buff-bodied wares and more rarely
on English and North American red earthenware. Refined white earthenwares
have a hard, somewhat porous body, and thin walls. Crushed, finely ground
silicon, feldspar, and occasionally kaolin, were added to the clay to
produce a white body (Kybalová 1989:13).
Archaeologists have traditionally used the terms pearlware and whiteware
to describe ceramic vessels decorated with printed motifs, but these terms
are problematic. For a discussion of the evolution of creamware, pearlware,
and whiteware, click
Additional Decoration (Click on each linked category title below to view images for that category)
Dipped earthenwares most commonly have a clear lead glaze. Colored glazes
were added to specific areas in some instances.
This decoration, which occurs frequently at the rim of vessels, was created with an embossed rouletting wheel. The leather hard vessel was held and turned on a lathe, while pressing the wheel into the desired area to create a band of repeating decoration. The rouletted area could be further defined with the application of colored glaze or slip. Rouletted rims were often painted over with a green glaze that would look darker in the deeper parts of the pattern (Figure 8), although blue or yellow is sometimes seen. This was a very common type from ca 1810 to ca 1860 (Miller 1991).
Rilling is another form of
decoration that occurs frequently at the rims of vessels, consisting of
a band of narrow groove made with a sharp-toothed tool. This type of decoration
is also known as reeding (Rickard 2006:25).
The addition of
dried bits of clay, left in three dimensions, to the surface of a slipped
vessel. This technique has also been referred to as “encrusted ware”
Dipped wares were almost always found in hollow utilitarian vessel forms—mugs,
pitchers/jugs, bowls and chamber pots commonly found on North American
archaeological sites. Other vessel forms include pepper pots (castors),
master salts, mustard pots, teapots, coffeepots, cup and saucer sets,
flowerpots, and beakers. Rarely seen forms include humidors, tobacco jars,
dairy pans, treacle jars and bough pots.