Sunday, January 22, 2012

It is memory

that enables a person to gather roses in January. ~ Author Unknown

At this point in the states where January is not represented by palm trees and coconuts, we residents are thinking spring. The garden catalogs are in the mailboxes daily, and, in the east, it has been a kind winter. The snowbabies are not happy, I am sure, but it has been a fairly mild winter. At auction the other night, I got a wonderful white ironstone pitcher and bowl, and I thought of spring and flowers...Ironstone china as we know it was first patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Staffordshire, England. It was an improved china harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain. Freshly cleaved ironstone is usually grey. The brown external appearance is due to oxidation of its surface. Ironstone, being a sedimentary rock is not always homogeneous and can be found in a red and black banded form called tiger iron, sometimes used for jewelry purposes. Sometimes ironstone hosts concretions or opal gems.

Mason's patent lasted only fourteen years, and by 1827 a number of other potters had already experimented with his formulas. All of these wares were decorated with transfer patterns or brush-stroke designs.

Interestingly, plain white was not common. According to my research, an undecorated piece would find its way out of the factory, possibly because it was flawed in some way. But, in the 1840's, England began exporting the undecorated wares to the American and Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the "Colonies" preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. (Boy, have we changed our tunes over the centuries!) Specifically, it was 1842 when James Edwards marketed the first white ironstone china in America.By the 1850's and 1860's, huge quantities of china were sold to the agricultural communities and called "thrashers' ware." These dinner, tea and chamber sets were embossed with wheat, prairie flowers and corn in order to appeal to the farmers who had to feed all the people that helped with the harvest.

Plain white was also used in 1878 by John Wanamaker of Philadelphia department store fame when he decreed January to be the time for a white sale. Bed linens, which were available in white only, were sold at a discount. It is believed he might have done so to keep linen makers in business during a slow time of year. Wouldn't it be nice if all retailers were so gracious in their ordering and sales today? But, for now, those of us who long for bouquets for the pitcher and bowls in our possession will have to dream of that spring day and of the roses of summer!"The first of all single colors is white ... We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness." ~Leonardo Da Vinci

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At the White Whale, white ironstone is one of our staples. It is a timeless classic! Thanks for the great post on Ironstone.