Collecting Vintage Spongeware

Spongeware used to be considered cheap and cheerful and, especially in the 19th century some potteries did not want it known that they were producing anything so common.  Spongeware was often a lifesaver when the potteries were short of orders and this filled the gap nicely.   It became somewhat of a cottage industry carried out by women and children working at the kitchen table.  They would pick up the blanks from the pottery and once the sponging was complete they would return the pieces to the pottery for the second firing.

Key potteries making spongeware included Llanelly in South Wales and David Methwen & Sons in Kircaldy in Scotland, as will as George Jones and WM Adams & Co in England.  The large majority of the pieces were not marked and therefore quite difficult to identify.  Because it was cheap to buy it would be in everyday use in the home and it is therefore quite hard to find pieces without damage.  Spongeware would have been used in farmhouses to serve porridge and soup and was often kept on the stove meaning that scorch marks and blackening was not unusual.

Comprehensive collections are rare and even the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has only a small selection of the more refined mid 18th century Staffordshire creamware on show. Continue reading “Collecting Vintage Spongeware”

An Introduction To Meissen China

Meissen is Europe’s oldest china manufacturer and some of the early pieces, which would have been made for European Royalty, will sell for very large sums.  If you are interested in Meissen there are pieces for the collector with a more modest budget.

In the early 17th century fine porcelain was worth a great deal of money, since European manufacturers had not yet discovered how to make it.  The King of Saxony, Augustus the Strong, was very taken with it and built a Palace in the Japanese style to house his collection.  As the King had spent a lot of money on this he needed to replenish the coffers and he had heard of an alchemist called John Böttger, who claimed he could turn metal into gold.  Bad mistake, the King imprisoned him and asked him to do just that.  Böttger was a quick thinker and offered to make ‘white gold’, as fine white porcelain was called, instead.  By 1710 Böttger had managed to crack the formula and Augustus built a new factory at Meissen.  Three years later the first white hard-paste European made porcelain went on sale.

Initially they made teapots, cups and Buddha-like figures, copied from Chinese and Japanese china.  As the European porcelain was expensive to make the decoration had to be impressive.  A painter employed at Meissen, J G Hörold, invented chinoiserie decoration which was more exotic than its Chinese counterpart.  He also painted tea sets with garden flowers, birds and landscapes, more familiar to the European customer. Continue reading “An Introduction To Meissen China”