Creamware: A Brief History
What is creamware?
Creamware, named after its ivory color, is a type of earthenware that was made popular by the workshop of Wedgwood. Creamware has a hard, somewhat porous body, and thin walls. Calcined flint, feldspar, and occasionally kaolin or other local clays, were added to the white-firing ball clay, then fired at a rather low temperature of 800 degrees Celsius. After this initial firing, the vessels would be glazed with liquid lead oxide. Iron impurities in the clay and glaze were responsible for the cream color of this ceramic. After glazing, the vessels would be fired for a second, and final, time.
Big Names in Creamware
Creamware production began in England in the 1740s. Thomas Whieldon was a pioneer in this method. Whieldon is perhaps best known for his ceramics featuring a tortoiseshell glaze on creamware.
Thomas Whieldon employed a young Josiah Wedgwood, upon whom he impressed his creamware knowledge.
Wedgwood expanded on Whieldon's methods and created a book of glaze recipes to create different effects. One was a colorless lead glaze that created a plain, well, cream-colored, creamware. Creamware with colorless glaze quickly became popular for tea and tablewares and could be found in many households throughout England and America. Plain creamware was most popular from the 1780s-1812.
Common Motifs and Decorations
Though plain creamware was quite popular, creamware was also decorated with a variety of techniques, used singularly or in combination.
Popular edge designs included Queen's shape (named after the Queen of England's commissioned creamware), royal shape, feather edge, and shell edge.
Creamware vessels could also be further ornamented with surface decoration including transfer printing, underglaze painting, and special glazing techniques.
n.b. Pearlware soon surpassed creamware in popularity. Many of the decorative techniques outlined above were implemented in pearlware design.
Creamware at Bardith
Bardith, Ltd. has a wonderful selection of creamware in our collection. Can you identify any of the decorative motifs found on our vessels? Click on the image to browse a selection of our creamware.