HISTORY: The squirrel was a popular pet and the subject of whimsical representation in paintings, toys, and various ceramic objects in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Two basic types of Moravian squirrel bottles survive: one stands upright and typically clasps a nut between its front paws; the other leans slightly forward with its head elevated. These two models were probably represented in the 1806 pottery inventory, which lists ninety-six squirrel bottles at 3 shillings 6 pence each and forty-five at 2 shillings each. (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)
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.
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.