Saturday, May 23, 2009

ironstone v. earthenware ... the debate continues

Now, the cranberry red coffee pot you've seen before. But I have been delighted to add the turquoise version on the right to my collection this week. I hadn't done the measuring up when i bought it on Ebay, but had assumed it to be the same model as the red one. However, of course you can see from the pictures it is slightly smaller, leading me to the conclusion that one is perhaps a coffee pot and the other a teapot? Even though the turquoise version is smaller, it feels quite large for a tea pot; the height is quite deceptive when thinking about the volume of water it could hold as it is not very wide.
All supositions aside, they are both very lovely examples of Aesthetic Movement period design - heavily influenced by Japanese designs of birds on branches combined with more Western classical border motifs. What caught me off guard even more than the height discrepancy was the difference in materials. The seller hadn't mentioned what the turquoise pot was made from - i assumed it to be earthenware like its counterpart. But no, it is in fact made from Ironstone. This is not the first time I've come across the Powell Bishop & Stonier factory using the same moulds with different raw materials (see a previous blog posting about a jug and bowl set in a Celtic Revival style).
What is most apparent about the two types of ceramic body is that Ironstone, whist heavier and harder, is more suited to intricate moulding as it gives a much crisper result. Take a look at these close ups to see what I mean - the fineness of the moulded design is better achieved in Ironstone than in Earthenware, which tends to give a much softer result. The factory produced a lot of Ironstone wares for the export market - mainly plain wares, or in a simple gilt tea leaf pattern - but they seemed to discontinue with it from the 1880s onwards in favour of earthenware and then finer bone china. The tough ironstone wares were perhaps particularly suited to export as they would've survived the long sea journey more safely than earthenware ceramics.


Archimandrill said...

just a piece of idle and uninformed speculation: could they be from the same mould and the difference in size be due to the different shrinkage rates of the two bodies?

bisto boy said...

an interesting idea as i'm sure there probably is some difference in the way clays react to firing etc, but in this case, the size difference is too great for that to be a factor i feel. Also, i don't suppose there is any guarantee that shrinkage would be uniform in percentage all over. No, i'll stick with my first thought that one is for coffee the other tea - or that it was simply that fashions changed and the size of the pot was a response to that.

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Sometimes, life doesn't turn out the way you expected. And sometimes, it is exactly as it was 'meant' to be. But whilst i'm not a believer in fate or fatalism, I do believe that life is a both a learning experience and an obstacle course to be climbed and clambered over in the most creative way possible! In doing so, you'll get to where you should be even if it's not where you'd imagined.