Collections › OSMG Collection › Dish


Dennis, William
Place Made:
Randolph County New Salem North Carolina
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
DIA: 13″
Accession Number:
This earthenware dish was thrown on a pottery wheel and has a wide edge, or marley that is decorated. White and dark manganese slip decoration is trailed on the piece and consists of central motif resembling a spine surrounded by concentric rings with vertical dividers. The rim is decorated with concentric rings divided by vertical lines enclosing zig-zag motif. Beneath the lead glaze, the surface of the clay appears a rich reddish-orange, and the white slip appears cream or yellow. A lead glaze was made up primarily of a lead oxide, most often red lead, that was ground, mixed with a clay so that the mixture would adhere to the pottery, and made liquid with water. Earthenware is a porous material and must have an applied glaze in order to hold liquids.

The direction in which the dark manganese slip can be seen running shows that the dish was fired in the kiln in an upright position.

MAKER: Potters of British descent were responsible for much of the earthenware produced in the North Carolina central North Carolina Piedmont. Some of the most elaborate examples of slipware are associated with Quakers William (1769–1847) and Thomas (1791–1839) Dennis, who worked at New Salem in northern Randolph County.

The technically accomplished wares associated with the Dennis sites suggest that William learned his trade from a highly skilled potter and passed his knowledge on to his son Thomas. Quaker craftsmen typically trained their own children or apprenticed them to other members of their faith. The Society of Friends’ Disciplines advised brethren “to bring up their children to habits of industry, placing them with sober and exemplary members of the society, for instruction in such occupations as are consistent with our religious principles and testimonies.”

Slipware associated with William and Thomas Dennis includes dishes with floral motifs and abstract patterns that resemble skeletons, clock hands, and radiating serpentine leaves with jeweled dots around their edges. Both men also made decorated hollow ware, although no examples have been discovered thus far.

Pugh, Hal E. and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh. “The Dennis Family Potters of New Salem, North Carolina.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2010): 140-167.