Dish

Attributed to Solomon Grimm, American, born 1787

Geography:
Made in Rockland Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

Date:
1815-25

Medium:
Lead-glazed earthenware, slip (for sgraffito decoration), copper oxide, manganese

Dimensions:
1 1/2 x 9 7/8 inches (3.8 x 25.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 115, American Art, first floor (Johnson Gallery)

Accession Number:
1979-100-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Baugh-Barber Fund, 1979

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This dish was made from high-quality clay found under the wet topsoil of Pennsylvania's low-lying plains. Southeastern Pennsylvania's terrain could support farms on the topsoil and potteries on the subsoil, so by 1810 potteries could be found in almost every township in Buck's County.

The work of the potter fit into the agricultural calendar. The clay was dug in the fall: topsoil was cleared and a foot-deep layer of clay was sliced and shoveled into a wagon, hauled to the pottery, and stacked. Before freezing weather, the clay was carried in baskets and dumped into a mill - a round tub with a revolving post set with blades. A horse harnessed to a sweep walked slowly around the tub, turning the blades. Water was flushed through to clean the clay and the resulting mass of plastic earth turned gray to yellow. The clay was then shaped into one hundred pound blocks and stored in a cellar where it was kept moist but would not freeze.

Besides turning pottery on the wheel, Pennsylvania German potters adopted the English method of forming a shallow plate by draping a rolled slab of damp clay over a convex mold. After shaping, this dish was left to firm up before glazing.

Colorful slip (an opaque glaze) and sgraffito (incised) ornamented the ceramic wares, such as this one, and were the presentation pieces of the rural potter. Thick white slip was applied to the surface when the ware was damp, and copper oxide and manganese were used to create the vibrant green and black-brown accents. The crosshatching and jab decoration are sgraffito, which is a technique highly developed by Pennsylvania potters. Outlines and solid areas were scratched through a coating of slip to reveal the red underbody, which then shone red through the glaze.


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