Collections › OSMG Collection › Owl Bottle

Owl Bottle

Artist/Maker:
Christ, Rudolph __Attributed to ||Holland, John __Attributed to
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1804-1829
Medium:
earthenware
Dimensions:
HOA: 7 5/8″; WOA: 3 1/2″; DOA: 4 1/4″
Accession Number:
4249
Description:
This press-molded eathenware owl bottle is coated with a white slip and then decorated with manganese and copper slips. Under a lead glaze the colors are yellow, brown, and green. There is a spout behind the ears of the owl. The bottle also has detailed feathered wings, an extended hooked beak, and feet molded to look like talons. “Owls” are first listed on the Salem inventories in 1804.Two different owlbottles are listed in the 1806 inventory, a large one priced at 5 shillings and a smaller one at 3 shillings 6 pence. One of the former and two of the latter are known. (Art in Clay Gallery Guide). The 1829 mold inventory indicates that three sizes were available for the owl molds.

Moravian potters in North Carolina made press-molded earthenware for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. The range of forms documented by surviving objects, molds, and references in pottery inventories is far greater than that of any contemporary American ceramic tradition. From smoking pipes to stove tiles, the Moravian potters at Bethabara and Salem expanded the production of press-molded earthenware to include figural bottles and casters, non-figural bottles, and toys. A press mold was usually plaster, consisting of two parts with the exterior design of the bottle impressed (from a model)on the interior of each half of the mold. Once the clay was set up, the molds were removed and the form remained with the impressions of the mold.

Moravian potters in North Carolina made press-molded earthenware for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. The range of forms documented by surviving objects, molds, and references in pottery inventories is far greater than that of any contemporary American ceramic tradition. From smoking pipes to stove tiles, the Moravian potters at Bethabara and Salem expanded the production of press-molded earthenware to include figural bottles and casters, non-figural bottles, and toys. A press mold was usually plaster, consisting of two parts with the exterior design of the bottle carved on the interior of each half of the mold. Once the clay was set up, the molds were removed and the form remained with the impressions of the mold.

Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of press molded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem
(1789–1821). Rudolph Christ apprenticed under Gottfried Aust in Salem, North Carolina. He established his own pottery in Bethabara in 1786 and worked there until 1789. He succeeded Aust as master potter in Salem from 1789 to 1821. (Ceramics in America 2009) The production of press-molded wares also continued through the tenure of John Holland, who apprenticed under Rudolph Christ and as noted in Moravian records, inherited molds used in Christ’s shop. Rudolph Christ retired in 1821 and John Holland took over as Salem’s third master potter. Although the pottery ceased to operate as a congregational business in 1829, production of press-molded wares continued in the shop of Holland and another Salem, potter, Heinrich Schaffner until at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

Brown, Johanna. “Tradition and Adaptation in Moravian Press-Molded Wares.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA (2009) 105-138.

Erickson, Michelle; Hunter, Robert; and Hannah, Caroline M.”Making a Moravian Squirrel Bottle.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. (2009): 199-216.

History:
LABEL NOTES: “‘Owls’ are first listed on the Salem inventories in 1804; in 1819 they sold for eight pence and 1/2. The 1829 mold inventory indicates that three sizes were made in all.”

Press Molded
Moravian potters in North Carolina made press-molded earthenware for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. The range of forms documented by surviving objects, molds, and references in pottery inventories is far greater than that of any contemporary American ceramic tradition. From smoking pipes to stove tiles, the Moravian potters at Bethabara and Salem expanded the production of press-molded earthenware to include figural bottles and casters, non-figural bottles, and toys. Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of pressmolded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem (1789–1821). (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)
Flasks & Figures
Moravian potters made thrown flasks, bottles, and other utilitarian forms long before introducing press-molded variants around 1800. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the variety of figural objects listed in the pottery inventories expanded with each passing year. A molded flask with a stylized flower may represent one of the “57 bottles” listed in the 1810 inventory of the Salem pottery or one of the sixty green bottles listed in the 1824 inventory. In 1819 the stock-in-trade of the Salem pottery included eighty-four eagle bottles and plaster molds for producing two different sizes. Of the three bottles known to survive, all are the same size and have green glaze applied on a white slip. The 1819 inventory also listed one hundred and seventy-five “ladies” in three different sizes.
Children enjoyed press-molded wares specially designed for them including doll heads to which cloth bodies could be attached. A figural form likely inspired by contact with Native Americans was the so-called “Indian.” The ceramic Indians listed at 10 shillings each in the 1806 inventory were the most expensive bottles made at the Salem pottery. No examples of this figure or its molds are known to survive.(Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Birds
Two different owl bottles are listed in the 1806 inventory, a large one priced at 5 shillings and a smaller one at 3 shillings 6 pence. One of the former and two of the latter are known. Chickens designed for dispensing spices or fine powders first appear on the 1810 inventory of the Salem Pottery. The most expensive bird figures were “turkeys” and “geese.” Both forms are listed on the 1806 inventory, valued at 48 shillings per dozen. A few small birds whose molds survive were probably intended as toys. (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Se also “Ceramics in America” 2009

Credit Line:
Katherine Babcock Mountcastle Purchase Fund