Thursday, January 27, 2011

Redware Pottery - a Pennsylvania Tradition

Simple redware items  -  Once found in every home
Redware pottery is admired and collected by different folks for different reasons.  Some, the country antiques collectors and decorators, love the simple forms and earth colors of the early utilitarian pieces.  Jugs, pots, jars, plates, bowls, etc., once used as everyday items in every home, fit in wonderfully with the country and primitive furnishings that are so popular today. 

These items are still easily found, particularly here in Eastern Pennsylvania where so much of it originated, and still at reasonably affordable prices.  Here, we're looking at a price range of say, $50. to $150.

The more sophisticated collector, whose tastes run to the antique decorated redware such as plates and bowls with slipware applied designs or sgraffito decoration, has a much harder task to locate these items and will need a much larger budget to tap into when they do find them.  Rarity has its price and the price range here can start at several hundred dollars for the simplest piece and run into the low thousands for a fine example.

A  Pennsylvania slipware charger - circa 1820

Then we get to the third level.  That is,  the highly decorated plates and chargers that were produced by known potters and created specifically as display pieces.  Some of these eighteenth century creations can cost in excess of $50,000.00 and the only place you're likely to find them is in a museum.  For all practical purposes, we're most unlikely to ever find such a treasure.

A rare sgraffito plate by David Spinner  (1758 - 1811)

But wait ... there's another category that's extremely popular with collectors.  That is, the fine redware pottery that is being produced today and which, for the most part, is highly decorated with slipware or sgraffito designs.  The most desirable being those items designed with the ever popular Pennsylvania Dutch motifs of distilfink birds, hearts and tulips, etc.

There are many potters and studios producing these wares and while they're certainly not restricted to Eastern Pennsylvania, some of the more talented and famous ones do come from this area.  Our favorite is Lester Breininger of Robesonia, PA.  (perhaps, because his home and studio is only a few miles from our house and we've visited several times).  Lester is a 9th. generation Pennsylvania German who began his pottery in 1965.  He's been featured in numerous local and national magazines and has works in the Winterthur, the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Lester in his shop
Every year, in August, Lester holds what he calls a 'porch sale' at his house and studio.  Collectors come from all over the east coast to view and purchase his latest creations.  We look forward to the event each year and have managed to build up a nice collection of his decorated pottery. 

His pieces do show up at local auctions here in Pennsylvania, and because of his growing national fame, his works often appear on the secondary market all over the country.   We frequently have a few of his fine pieces for sale on our website.  

A beautiful sgraffito decorated bowl
by Lester Breininger
So, the contemporary potters like Lester Breininger  have filled a void.  For those of us who love the highly decorated Pennsylvania redware, in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, but could never begin to afford to build up collection of antique pieces, we can still collect it and enjoy it.    

If you would like to learn more about redware pottery, get a copy of Kevin McConnell's informative book entitled 'Redware - America's Folk Art Pottery'.  It's inexpensive and readily available on the internet.                                     

No comments:

Post a Comment