History in Our Pots

The History

Redware is the type of pottery most commonly used in the 18th century by everyday people, as well as in the kitchens of the wealthy for food preparation. We like it to today’s melamine or Corelle – it was inexpensive enough that a broken piece could be easily replaced. Archeologists tell us that 18th-century excavation sites yield more redware shards than any other type of ceramic (such as stoneware or porcelain).  This is probably due to the fact that redware clays were far more readily available than stoneware or porcelain clays, which also fire to a much higher temperature and are thus more expensive to produce.

While we specialize in reproducing pieces traditionally made in redware, we have also been known to appropriate ideas from other types of 18th century pottery. In that respect, we are much like the early potters, who did not hesitate to use an idea they considered useful, novel, or saleable. Like other folk artists, we also mine the resources of other art media(such as crewel embroidery, tole painting, fraktur and the like) as sources of inspiration.

Some things about the process of making pottery have remained virtually unchanged through the centuries.  But we have modified our process in several important ways. First and foremost, we use no lead or other toxic ingredients in our glazes. Unlike the early potters, we are aware of the dangers of leaching lead to human health (both our customers’ and our own). While some contemporary potters DO make lead-glazed reproduction redware, they must by law mark their work as unsafe for food. By contrast, we want our pieces to be used for their intended function and enjoyed every day, and we certainly aim to keep our customers alive and healthy. Our own kitchen pantry is stocked with seconds from our production line, which we and our children use as our everyday dinnerware.

Early redware was fired in a wood-burning kiln – a process that took days of concentrated manpower and resulted in a high percentage of loss. In the interest of keeping our process reasonable, we fire our pots in a modern kiln.

Finally, we single- fire our pots, which means that we directly glaze the raw piece. This is the technique used by the original redware potters. It has the practical effect of eliminating the bisque, or initial, firing, promoting a greater integration of clay and glaze.

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