Redware Pottery

Redware pottery is often associated with utilitarian objects such as plates, bowls, and storage jars, but it has also been used to create decorative items such as figurines, tiles, and other ornamental pieces.

Redware pottery refers to a type of earthenware that is typically made from red clay and fired at relatively low temperatures. It has been used for thousands of years in various parts of the world and is known for its durability, versatility, and affordability.

“Redware” as a single word is a term for at least two types of pottery of the last few centuries, in Europe and North America. “Red ware” as two words is a term used for pottery, mostly by archaeologists, found in a very wide range of places. However, these distinct usages are not always adhered to, especially when referring to the many different types of pre-colonial red wares in the Americas, which may be called “redware”.

Redware pottery is often associated with utilitarian objects such as plates, bowls, and storage jars, but it has also been used to create decorative items such as figurines, tiles, and other ornamental pieces. The production of redware pottery involves shaping the clay into the desired form, allowing it to dry partially, and then firing it in a kiln. The resulting pottery is often left unglazed or covered with a clear lead glaze[1].

In European contexts “redware” usually means an unglazed (“dry-bodied”) stoneware, typically used for serving or drinking drinks. The term is primarily used for pottery from the 17th and 18th centuries, before porcelain, imported from East Asia or made in Europe, became cheap enough to be used widely. In this period red stoneware was used for vessels, especially teapots, jugs, and mugs, which were relatively expensive and carefully made and decorated.

Imported examples of Chinese Yixing clay[2] teapots, an unglazed stoneware type made from a special type of clay, provided the exemplars and were often copied with various degrees of closeness.

A Delftware manufacturer[3] announced in 1678 that he was making “red teapots”, of which no examples are known to survive. The Dutch Elers brothers[4] brought the style to Staffordshire pottery in the 1690s, after finding a suitable source of clay, and were widely imitated there. Some red stoneware by rival Dutch potters including Arij de Milde[5] from the years around 1700 does survive, closely copying Yixing pots in style.

Johann Friedrich Böttger[6] was in contact with some of these and developed a rival “Böttger ware”, a dark red stoneware first sold in 1710, and manufactured and imitated by others, all up to about 1740. It was Böttger’s first commercial ware and a significant stage in his development of porcelain in Europe, which he soon made at the Meissen porcelain factory[7].

Josiah Wedgwood[8] later refined the type, and gave the decoration a fashionable turn towards Neoclassicism, with his “Rosso Antico” body[9]. This was usually decorated with sprigged reliefs in black, creating pleasing contrasts like those in his earlier Jasperware[10].

In the United States, redware pottery was particularly popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was produced in a number of states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and was used for a variety of purposes, including food storage, cooking, and serving. Today, redware pottery continues to be made and used by potters and artisans around the world. It remains a popular choice for those seeking a durable and affordable alternative to more expensive types of pottery.

  1. Glazing pottery refers to the process of applying a layer of glassy coating to a ceramic surface to make it more durable, impermeable, and visually appealing. Glazes are typically made from a mixture of minerals and are applied to the pottery before it is fired in a kiln. During firing, the glaze melts and fuses with the ceramic surface, creating a smooth, glossy coating. Different types of glazes can be used to achieve a wide range of colors, textures, and effects on the surface of the pottery. Glazing is an important technique in ceramics and has been used for thousands of years in various parts of the world. [Back]
  2. Chinese Yixing clay, also known as Zisha, is a type of clay that is prized for its unique properties and has been used to make teapots and other ceramics in China for over a thousand years. Yixing clay is known for its high iron content and porous nature, which allows it to absorb and retain the flavors and aromas of tea over time. Yixing teapots are highly valued by tea connoisseurs and collectors for their ability to enhance the taste and fragrance of tea and for their intricate designs and craftsmanship. The production of Yixing clay teapots is a complex and highly skilled process that involves shaping the clay by hand and firing it at high temperatures to create a dense and durable ceramic. [Back]
  3. Delftware is a type of blue and white pottery that originated in the city of Delft in the Netherlands during the 17th century. It is characterized by its blue decoration on a white tin-glazed background and typically features images of landscapes, seascapes, flowers, and animals. Delftware became popular as a less expensive alternative to Chinese porcelain and was exported throughout Europe and the Americas. The production of Delftware was a highly skilled and complex process that involved molding, glazing, and firing the pottery in a kiln. Today, Delftware remains a popular and highly collectible type of pottery, and there are still a small number of workshops in Delft that produce it using traditional techniques. [Back]
  4. The Dutch Elers brothers, John and David, were influential potters who worked in Staffordshire, England in the late 17th century. They were known for their innovative techniques, including the development of a distinctive red stoneware body and the use of manganese glazes to produce deep brown and black colors on their pottery. The Elers brothers are credited with introducing a number of new forms and styles to English pottery, including teapots, chocolate pots, and vases with fluted or scalloped edges. Their work had a significant impact on the development of English ceramics and influenced a number of other potters who followed in their footsteps. [Back]
  5. Arij de Milde was a Dutch potter who lived in the 18th century and worked in the city of Delft. He is known for his production of blue and white Delftware pottery, including plates, dishes, and vases, which were decorated with scenes of landscapes, animals, and architectural motifs. De Milde’s work is notable for its high quality and refined designs, and it is highly sought after by collectors of Delftware. Despite his prominence in the Delft pottery industry, very little is known about De Milde’s life or career, and his work remains shrouded in mystery. [Back]
  6. Johann Friedrich Böttger was a German alchemist and inventor who is credited with the invention of European porcelain in the early 18th century. Böttger was imprisoned by the King of Saxony for several years to find the secret to making gold from base metals. Although he was unable to discover the alchemical secrets he was seeking, he did discover the formula for making hard-paste porcelain, a highly sought-after luxury item that had previously only been imported from China. Böttger’s invention revolutionized the European pottery industry, and he went on to establish the Meissen porcelain factory in Saxony, which became one of the most famous and prestigious porcelain manufacturers in Europe. [Back]
  7. The Meissen porcelain factory was founded in 1710 by Johann Friedrich Böttger in the town of Meissen, near Dresden, Germany. It was the first European factory to produce hard-paste porcelain, a type of high-quality porcelain that had previously only been imported from China. Meissen porcelain quickly gained a reputation for its exquisite craftsmanship and was highly sought after by collectors and royalty throughout Europe. The factory has continued to produce porcelain for over 300 years, and its products are still highly prized by collectors and museums around the world for their beauty and historical significance. [Back]
  8. Josiah Wedgwood was an English potter and entrepreneur who is credited with revolutionizing the pottery industry in the 18th century. Wedgwood is known for his innovative designs, including the creation of Jasperware, a type of unglazed stoneware with raised designs in white on a colored background, and his development of new glazes and ceramic bodies. He was also a pioneer of marketing and branding in the pottery industry, creating distinctive designs and packaging for his products and targeting new markets through advertising and promotional campaigns. Wedgwood’s legacy as one of the most important figures in the history of British ceramics is still felt today, with his products remaining highly collectible and sought after. [Back]
  9. “Rosso Antico” is a type of ceramic body that was developed in Staffordshire, England in the early 19th century. It is a fine-grained, hard-paste earthenware that is characterized by its distinctive deep red color, which is achieved by adding iron oxide to the clay mixture. The body was often used for decorative pieces, such as vases and figures, and was popular in the Neo-Classical and Regency periods for its rich color and ability to hold fine detail. Despite its popularity in the 19th century, “Rosso Antico” is no longer produced today, and surviving pieces are highly sought after by collectors. [Back]
  10. Jasperware is a type of unglazed stoneware that was developed by the English potter Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. It is characterized by its matte finish and the use of white reliefs on a colored background. Wedgwood was inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman pottery that he saw on his travels, and he sought to recreate the classical style in his own work. Jasperware was highly successful and became one of Wedgwood’s signature products, with designs featuring classical figures, scenes, and motifs. The popularity of Jasperware continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, and it remains a popular collectible today. [Back]

Further Reading

  • “Redware” (March 14, 2023 Last Update)
  • Venable, C. S. (1991). American redware. University Press of New England.
  • Sponenberg, A. M. (2002). The redware tradition of southeastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Folklife, 51(1/2), 22-33.
  • Yellin, D. (1996). Redware. Antique Trader Books.
  • Rhodes, D. (2008). Clay and glazes for the potter. Krause Publications.
  • Taylor, L. (2015). Glaze: The ultimate ceramic artist’s guide to glaze and color. The Quarto Group.
  • Cooper, E. B. (2002). Glazes for the studio potter. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Fang, Z. (2008). The Art of the Yixing Potter: A Tour of Contemporary Yixing Studios. Times Editions.
  • K.S. Lo, Yixing Pottery: The World of Chinese Tea Culture, San Francisco, Long River Press, 2002.
  • Meng, L. (2011). The Yixing Effect: Echoes of Chinese Ceramic Culture. Ceramic Art and Perception, (84), 61-63.
  • Aronson, J. (2010). Dutch Delftware: History of a National Product, Volume 1. Yale University Press.
  • Griffin, A. (2004). Delftware: The Tin-Glazed Earthenware of the British Isles. Antique Collectors’ Club.
  • Rijksmuseum. (n.d.). Delftware. Retrieved from
  • Cushing, H. (2005). Dutch potters in England, 1680-1800. Antique Collectors’ Club.
  • Godden, G. A. (1995). Godden’s guide to English porcelain and pottery. Antique Collectors’ Club.
  • Rackham, B. (1964). Dutch potters in England. Country Life.
  • Korf, D. J. (1963). Arij de Milde, 18th Century Master of Delftware. The Magazine Antiques, 84(5), 430-433.
  • Korf, D. J. (1968). The History of Delftware. Van Nostrand Reinhold.
  • Mudge, J. (2009). Delftware: Dutch and English. Aylesbury: Shire Publications.
  • Battie, D. (2013). Meissen Porcelain. Philip Wilson Publishers.
  • Beaucamp-Markowsky, D. (2004). Johann Friedrich Böttger and the Invention of European Porcelain. Ars Ceramica.
  • Hoffmann, H. (2010). The Porcelain Manufactory Meissen. Edition Leipzig.
  • Buten, D. (1996). Wedgwood. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
  • Mallet, J. V. (1992). Wedgwood. Antique Collectors’ Club.
  • Tait, A. A. (1979). Josiah Wedgwood: An Illustrated Life. Shire Publications.
  • Godden, G. A. (1964). Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Barrie & Jenkins.
  • Hughes, R. (1990). English Porcelain and Bone China, 1743-1850. Cassell.
  • Savage, G. (1989). Pottery Through the Ages. Penguin.

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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