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Josiah Wedgwood by George Stubbs, 1795. Print.

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Wedgwood is perhaps one of the best known names in antique English ceramics. The Wedgwood company, founded in 1759, revolutionized the pottery industry by perfecting the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of ceramics. The man behind the famous English workshop was Josiah Wedgwood. He came by the profession quite naturally, as he was born into a family of potters. However, a childhood bout of small pox left him unable to work the potter’s wheel, so he turned to designing pottery instead.

Wedgwood worked with several partners before making a name for himself. One of his most notable collaborations was with Thomas Whieldon, whose unique stoneware with a tortoiseshell-like pattern can be immediately recognized as Whieldon ware by collectors.

Tortoiseshell design on Whieldon ware.
 Under his partnership with Whieldon, Wedgwood experimented with various glaze recipes and firing techniques to improve the ceramics. He recorded his techniques in a private book. Wedgwood took that spirit of creativity, as well as his secret ‘Experiment Book,’ with him to form his own workshop in 1759 at the age of twenty-nine.

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Interesting Facts about Josiah

He had many royal patrons, including Queen Charlotte of England and Russian empress Catherine II.

He was an abolitionist.

He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin.

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Shop Wedgwood

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Types of Wares

Rosso Antico

Rosso Antico” to describe his redware.

Creamware

A cream/white-colored glazed earthenware, creamware is also called Queensware after Queen Charlotte commissioned Wedgwood to create a set.

Black Basalt

Black basalt wares were made from clay that had coal in it, but the richer black that we see in finished products comes from the addition of manganese.

Jasperware

High-fired stoneware with an unglazed, matte finish, jasperware is perhaps one of Wedgwood’s most recognizable wares. It came in a variety of colors, notably light blue or “Wedgwood Blue,” but other colors such as dark blue, lilac, sage green, black, and yellow were produced. Often, white sculptural decorations covered the surface in relief.

Caneware

This type of unglazed stoneware is buff, or yellowish-cream, in color. Many of Wedgwood’s caneware featured bamboo motifs.

Drabware

Olive-grey unglazed stoneware.

Wedgwood & Byerley, York Street. St. James’s Square. For No. 2 of R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, 1809. Aquatint, 5½ x 9¼”. British Library.

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Invitation to an exhibition of Old Wedgwood Ware. Print. Victoria & Albert Museum, 15672:1.
Proof; "P 16", from Wedgwood's Catalogue of Earthenware and Porcelain (attributed title); designs reproducing 14 Wedgwood items, numbered "1457", "1554", "1553", "1459", "1461", "1565", "1467", "1538", "1566", "1481", "1469", "1556", "1486" and "1561". c.1816 Engraving and etching
Page from Wedgwood’s Catalogue of Earthenware and Porcelain, ca. 1816. Engraving and etching. British Museum, 1867,1012.223.
References

Dawson, Aileen. Masterpieces of Wedgwood. London: British Museum Press, 1984.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1795), BBC.

Mankowitz, Wolf. Wedgwood. Leicester: Magna Books, 1992.
The Genius of Wedgwood. Hilary Young, ed. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1995.

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Here at Bardith, Ltd. we specialize in antique ceramics. If you browse our inventory, you’ll find terms like soft-paste porcelain, earthenware, and terracotta. What does it all mean? Ceramic nomenclature can present a challenge to new collectors and old alike, so we’ve put together a guide of ceramics dictionary terms for your convenience. Now, you’ll never have to wonder about the difference between stoneware and earthenware!


All of our vessels are ceramics/pottery. The terms are synonymous and refer to objects made of fired clay, though the nature of each’s purpose varies slightly.

Ceramics: objects made of fired clay; usually more decorative in nature

Pottery: objects made of fired clay; usually more utilitarian in nature

Ceramics/pottery can be divided into three groups: stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain. Each has their own variations, described below.

Stoneware: ceramic material made of fire clay, ball clay, feldspar, and silica and fired at high temperatures of 1148-1316ºC; nonporous; white, gray, or brown in color; can be glazed or unglazed

English Stoneware Obelisks
  • Caneware: tan, unglazed stoneware
    • Qualities: tan or light brown; often has a pie crust-like edge
    • Associated with: Wedgwood
Caneware Game Pie Dish
  • Black Basalt: stoneware made from basalt rock, an igneous rock formed from lava
    • Qualities: smooth to touch, black or dark grey in color
    • Associated with: Wedgwood
Pair of Wedgwood Black Basalt Urns

Earthenware: porous ceramic material made from either red or white clay fired at low temperatures of 1000-1080°C; most fragile type of pottery

  • Creamware: made with buff-colored clay with flint to whiten it and covered with a lead glaze
    • Qualities: cream-colored, lightweight, durable
    • Other names: Queensware
    • Associated with: Wedgwood; Leeds
English Creamware Banded Mug
  • Terracotta: red earthenware with iron in the clay; low fired at around 1000°C
    • Qualities: usually unglazed, brownish-red in color
Pair of Neoclassical Terracotta Ewers

Porcelain: ceramic material made by firing clay at high temperatures that result in vitrification; white in color; highly durable

  • Hard-paste porcelain: ceramic made from Kaolin white clay and Petunse rock; high fired at around 1450°C
    • Qualities: translucent, brilliant white, glassy smooth
    • Other names: “true” porcelain, pâte dure, porcelaine royale, grand feu
    • Associated with:  Meissen; Chinese porcelain
Sevres Hard-Paste Porcelain Dishes
  • Soft-paste porcelain: ceramic made from Kaolin white clay and Petunse rock; fired at a lower temperature of around 1200°C
    • Qualities: granular and porous, a little less white, has silky or marble-like feel to the touch
    • Other names: artificial porcelain, frit porcelain, porcelaine de France, pâte tendre
    • Associated with: Medici Porcelain; the Chelsea Factory in England
Worcester Soft-Paste Porcelain Cup & Saucer
  • Bone china: ceramic made from Kaolin white clay and Petunse rock with added bone ash; can be fired at a lower temperature than soft-paste porcelain
    • Qualities: brilliant and translucent white (though less so than hard-paste porcelain)
    • Other names: English China
  • Soaprock porcelain: uses a soft Steatite mineral
    • Qualities: feels soft like soap
    • Other names: soapstone, French chalk
  • Biscuit porcelain: unglazed porcelain or earthenware that has only been fired once
    • Qualities: marble-like appearance
    • Other names: bisque, Parian ware
  • Blanc de Chine: white Chinese porcelain made in Southeast China; typically used for figures or sculptures
    • Qualities: highly transparent, white
    • Other names: “white from China” (Fr.), Dehua porcelain
Blanc de Chine Porcelain Cockerels

As you can see, there is a plethora of types of ceramics. We hope this guide of  ceramics dictionary terms will be helpful for you when browsing our inventory. Feel free to contact us with any questions or requests for information.


References

Bertolissi, Nicoletta. “What is the difference between porcelain and ceramic? All you need to know about 9 confusing ceramic terms,” Nicoletta Bertolissi. 3 December 2014.

Mussi, Susan. Ceramic Dictionary.

“Types of Porcelain: Hard Paste, Soft Paste, and Bone China,” Marks 4 Antiques.