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Clay Pottery Designs

There are many different clay pottery designs, each of which has been popular at a point throughout history. Below is a list of the most iconic clay pottery designs….

Delft Blue

These clay pottery designs are highly recognizable the world over thanks to the white background and dark blue detail. The original Delftware was made in Delft, in the Netherlands, during the 16th century with a process called “tin glazing” for the metal compounds in the glaze.

Clay pottery designs included many pictorial scenes, such as landscapes, seascapes, and detailed paintings of farms. Delft Blue clay pottery designs also feature Chinese scenes, thanks to the Eastern influence of the Dutch trade with China. At the time Chinese imports of pottery painted with highly detailed images, were highly coveted for their high quality. As a result, Dutch manufacturers began to adopt the Chinese style after the imports of Chinese pottery were halted in 1620, following the death of the Chinese Emperor. Though imports resumed, Delftware continued to incorporate Chinese design elements.

This striking look has been emulated by later pottery studios throughout the world. Today, the pottery manufacturer Delfts Blauw (Dutch for Delft Blue) continues to make pottery using the same tin glazing method and style as the original Delftware.

Slip Ware Clay Pottery Designs

While most pottery is decorated with glaze after it has been fired, ancient pottery was decorated with slip. Slip is made from a mixture of clay, various minerals, and water, though it has a slightly thicker consistency than water. Craftsmen throughout the ages have used different chemicals to color the slip before painting it onto the pottery. This technique is still used today. Another option is to use slip made from terracotta clay, which has a reddish appearance, to decorate pieces made from white clay or vice versa.

Luster Ware

These pieces are decorated with glaze that has a metallic sheen. The overall effect is that the clay pottery designs appear to be iridescent. The glaze is an overglaze, which is applied to the clay pottery pieces after they have already been fired twice. Clay pottery pieces are decorated with a detailed underglaze design, and fired for a second time to set the underglaze design on the clay pottery. Only then are they ready to be glazed with the overglaze.

Luster Ware was popularized during the 18th century by well-known fine china manufacturers, including Wedgwood and Spode. Different chemicals added to the metal oxide in the overglaze can result in different colored hues. Silver hued lusterware is the result of the addition of small amounts of platinum having been added to the glaze. These pieces were made into tea sets used by the middle class in the 18th century in place of silver sets. Today, they are worth a great deal as antiques, and the process of creating luster ware has remained popular.

Willow Pattern

Another distinctive pottery design is Willow. Though the origins of the design are unknown, it is at least two hundred years old. Pieces, typically plates, are white pottery that feature highly detailed single color designs. The color may be blue, pink, green, or brown. The pattern depicts a Chinese story, though exactly what that story is has been debated by art historians.

Elements in the Willow pattern include pagodas and willow trees. A river is also pictured, upon which a houseboat is seen sailing with a man at the helm. Upon closer inspection, you can see small figures throughout the piece’s design. The entire design is banded with an intricately decorated border. The pattern has been reproduced by nearly every fine china manufacturer in Great Britain since it became popular.

British pottery manufacturer Spode suggests that the Willow pattern is the story of forbidden love between a minister’s daughter and the minister’s secretary. They have attributed the fence seen in the pattern to the father having banished the secretary. Spode also points to miniature figures, indicating that the boat on the river contains the man that the minister wants his daughter to marry. The couple’s romance is seen throughout the plate’s intricate design. Spode points to the doves at the top of the plate as a symbol of the tragic end of the couple’s ill-fated romance.

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