Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 3: Slipped Coarse Earthenware 

In ceramic terms a slip is liquid clay used to decorate over a previously fired earthenware.  Historically slips came in white, yellow, light and dark brown, and green.  A clear lead glazed coating was put on after firing the slip to give a smooth and shiny sheen.  Many of the patterns repeat across types, such slip trailing (defined line), combing (running a wide comb tool across lines or feathering with a brush), and marbled (joggling).  Toward the end of preparing this post I found this beautiful History of Slipware page featuring sherds from Port Royal, Jamaica, perfect for those wanting to know more about English decoration and vessel types. 

1. Wrotham and Metropolitan - 17th Century

Before Staffordshire types, these early slip wares featured darker, more rustic decorations.  Wrotham features a dark slip covered the entire vessel and another slip design was dropped on top in naturalistic designs.  Metropolitan are more ginger in color.  There's a nice description with pictures on the Jamestown Rediscovery webpage.  We didn't have any specimens at the library or in class, but I have seen a few sherds at the City archaeology lab and when I visit places like Boston.

Wrotham vessel with date inscribed from Allen Gallery in Alton, Hampshire, UK.

Metropolitan slipware from Museum of London collection.

2. Sgraffito

Sgraffito in general means to scratch into the slipped surface.  This decoration style is still used today but can be found on Florida historic sites as Polychrome in 16th c contexts possibly made in Spain, to a later British made Sgraffito, white slip over red paste that dates from 1650-1740.  We didn't have any examples in class or the library, so check out the FLMNH digital type collection links I pasted in above.

Italian sgraffito vessel replica featured as a WIIW years back.  Answer featured in a follow up blog post.

3. Pisan (1600-1650)

Another Italian type common in Spanish and English colonies is Pisan.  The paste is red and compact.  The surface is decorated with marbleized swirls of yellow, brown, and green.  A clear lead glaze is then added over the slip decoration for a glossy finish.  It reminds me of the pattern found on the inside covers of old books.  The decoration starts as straight lines of different color slips.  The artist gives a slight jiggle (called a joggle) to the vessel, and voila...swirls are born (see YouTube video below).
Mind the gap...formatting issues I can't seem to resolve....


As an archaeologist you are most likely to find this type, ubiquitous on 18th century Colonial sites.  While the FMNH has a nice page, the Maryland Type Collection page has the greatest detail.   Paste is yellowish or buff.  The slip can be white or brown and decorated in a variety of ways: slip trailing, "jeweling" by placing dots, combing, marbling (joggling), and impressed.  A lead glaze is then added over to give it a flat, shiny surface appearance.  Large plates are decorated on one side a feature a "piecrust" rim, however Staffordshire slips are found on a variety of vessel forms. 

Slip trailed, marbled (joggled) and marbled Staffordshire sherds.

Combed Staffordshire dish made today for tourists.

5. American or Moravian (1750-1825)
Slipped trailed red ware, coarse red paste, design just trialled over the top and lead glaze on top.  Not layered or swirled.  Unlike Staffordshire sherds, American or Moravian feature a thick red paste.  These were made in the second half of the 18th century.  Important for St. Augustine, this type indicates Second Spanish period deposits found above the British period layers featuring Staffordshire types.  The ginger colored vessels are not often glazed on the back.  Combinations of white, yellow, light or dark brown, and green could be trailed, marbled, banded, or washed over body.  Could also be slip trailed with animals, floral designs, dates and other inscriptions. 
Image of Moravian Sherd from Brenda Heindl's blog Liberty Stoneware.

6. Saintonage (1250 - 1650)

I'm a bit obsessed with Saintonge at the moment.  This type comes from southern France and is found in Europe and early French sites in the US.  I have seen 28 Saintonge vessels in my life, and all of them were on display in Quebec City.  Unfortunately no photos were allowed and we didn't have a specimen for class.  You can check out the FMNH listing, or I included some samples from the web below.  The slip is white, like a primer, and the green glaze is on top of the slip.  It is rare but possible to find in St. Augustine.  It is also found in Atlantic and Gulf states, Illinois, and Canada, most notably in Quebec. 

Image of Saintonge from Old Mobile Archaeology page.
Saintonge pitcher from Museum of London Ceramics and Glass Collection.

There are some AWESOME videos that show techniques for slipwares, here's just a few (note: on some browsers the thumbnails don't seem to appear so including hyperlink in titles just in case):

The Slipware Tour- almost an hour long but beautiful before and after images showing multiple forms and styles

Slipware plates- joggling and straight lines:

Irma Starr makes 17th Century English Slipware:

More general review of post-medival pottery in England by Time Team (3 minutes in nice review of Staffordshire industry)

Check back next time as the wild MAJOLICA adventure begins!

Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slipware and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  Images by Sarah Miller except where noted in the caption and full reference given below.


Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/)

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Jefferson Patterson Parks and Museum, Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland, Colonial Ceramics webpage (http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/index-colonial.html)

"Saintonge" Slipware.  St. Mary's University Anthropology page.  http://www.smu.ca/academics/departments/anthropology-saintonge-slipware.html

A Study of Colonial Ceramics.  The Center for Archaeological Studies' Old Mobile Archaeology website.  http://www.southalabama.edu/archaeology/study/faience2001.htm  

Ceramics at the Allen Gallery. http://www3.hants.gov.uk/allen-gallery/allen-ceramics.htm 

Metropolitan Slipware, Museum of London Ceramics and Glass Collection.   http://archive.museumoflondon.org.uk/ceramics/pages/subcategory.asp?subcat_id=720&subcat_name=Metropolitan

Metropolitan Slipware.  Jamestown Rediscover webpage: http://apva.org/rediscovery/page.php?page_id=295. 

Heindl, Brenda.  Moravian slipware sherds featured on Liberty Stoneware blog: http://libertystoneware.blogspot.com/2011/01/austin-texas.html 

Donachie, Madeleine.  Slipware at Port Royal, Jamaica.  Texas A&M.  http://nautarch.tamu.edu/portroyal/slipware/index.html

3 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great info here, nice job!

    But, FLMNH is Florida Museum of Natural History, FMNH is the Field Museum in Chicago, might want to fix this in your blog.

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  3. Saludos y muchas gracias por la informacion, bellas fotos que son de utilidad para conocer las ceramicas

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