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Dish

Artist/Maker:
Albright/Loy Pottery
Place Made:
Alamance County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1790-1820
Medium:
earthenware –lead-glazed
Dimensions:
DIA: 10″
Accession Number:
89.27
Description:
Made of earthenware clay, this wheel-thrown dish has a marley, or rim, that is decorated with white, red, and yellow slip trailing with alternating dotted lunettes and grass-like motifs. The center has a star made up of imbricated triangles surrounding two concentric circles separated by dots. In the very center is a sprig of grass. Beneath the slip-trailed decoration is a dark manganese slip that coats the surface. The dish is lead glazed. 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 liquefied with water. Beneath the lead glaze the white slip appears yellow.

Four dishes made by a single potter likely working between 1790 and 1820 reveal that the stylistic repertoire of Alamance County’s slipware potters was both cohesive and complex. Although no two motifs on these objects are the same, all have central designs that radiate from the center. One design consists of imbricated triangles emanating from a circle; one resembles a starburst; one has bisecting fronds; and one has a cruciform motif with stylized leaves at the intersections. The outer motifs on these dishes are equally varied, featuring clusters of stylized grass, lunettes, undulating vines, lozenge-shaped panels, and interlinked cymas. Comparable decoration occurs on sugar pots, pitchers, and a punch bowl that may have come from the same pottery. Some of these objects differ in having red to reddish-orange slip grounds or decoration applied directly on the clay body.

STYLE: Most of the surviving examples of North Carolina slipware are associated with Germanic craftsmen who worked in and around the St. Asaph’s district of Orange County (now southern Alamance County). The forms and motifs introduced by the first potters who settled in that area coalesced in southwestern Germany, arrived with immigrant craftsmen who initially settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and persisted in North Carolina from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Unlike some areas of the backcountry, where interactions with different ethnic groups or various social and economic forces lead to the assimilation of Old World craft traditions, the interrelated and interdependent Germanic communities of southeastern Guilford County and southern Alamance County were obstacles to change.

Slipware from the St. Asaph’s tradition differs significantly from that associated with the Moravians. Whereas the Moravians had a naturalistic vocabulary with theological underpinnings and appear to have limited their trailing to dishes and plates, the St. Asaph’s potters used a wide range of motifs— stylized crosses and plant forms, fylfots, imbricated triangles, and other geometric designs—on both flat and hollow ware forms. Surviving examples of slip-decorated hollow ware include pitchers, tankards, bottles, flasks, barrels, bowls, and distinctive covered vessels referred to during the period as “sugar pots.” The St. Asaph’s potters used dark brown and black grounds to a much greater extent than other American earthenware potters.

MAKER: Much of the earthenware from the St. Asaph’s tradition centered on the closely allied Albright and Loy families. Jacob Albright (1753-1825) was listed as a “potter” as early as the 1800 tax records for St. Asaph’s district, and he was also the father-in-law of potter Henry Loy (1777-1825) and the grandfather of potter Solomon Loy (1805-after 1865).

Ceramic fragments recovered at the site of Jacob Albright’s pottery document the production of earthenware with dark brown and black grounds and polychrome slip decoration. The decorative vocabulary of his pottery included marbleizing—a technique rare in southern slipware— as well as trailing in both abstract and naturalistic styles. Most of the fragments are from dishes, but bases from three mugs or tankards with polychrome banding indicate that Albright’s pottery also made decorated hollow ware. “An Inventory and an Account of Sales of the Estate of Jacob Albright Decd,” dated March 24, 1825 listed two potter’s wheels, a glaze mill, a clay mill, a grindstone, a pipe mold, a stove mold, and numerous crocks, dishes, basons, jugs, pitchers, and sugar pots. The amount of equipment would have been sufficient for a modest workforce.

Beckerdite, Luke, Johanna Brown, and Linda Carnes-McNaughton. “Slipware from the St. Asaph’s Tradition.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Carnes-McNaughton, Linda. “Solomon Loy: Master Potter of the Carolina Piedmont.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton