Hi everyone! I hope you are all well. We have had some sickness in our house over the past several days, but mercifully, it has passed me by. I’m taking vitamin C and washing my hands a lot–those are my “secrets.” Today’s post is no secret, however. I mentioned earlier in the week that I would be writing about stick spatterware, and so today I am. I bought several pieces last week-end and wrote about them in This Week’s Vintage Finds. I’ve bought and sold several pieces over the years, but was unfamiliar with the historical background, so I thought I’d buzz around the internet and learn a thing or two about this area of collecting.
Like transferware, another popular type of dinnerware, spatterware was developed in Staffordshire, England, in the late 18th century. We Americans, particularly the Pennsylvania Dutch, soon fell in love with its bright, cheery colors and simple designs. Viewed for years as a form of folk art because of it’s beautiful simplicity, it was in fact produced assembly line fashion in well-established potteries, like Enoch Woods and Wedgwood. The popular style spread to other parts of Europe where it was also exported to America.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, my pieces were manufactured in Holland by Societe Ceramique Maestricht. In business from 1836 to 1969, they operated in an area well known for its earthenware production. Coarser and more porous than porcelain, it was intended for every day, utilitarian use.
The phrase, “Made In” gives us a clue to when they manufactured my plate. We know that the U.S. passed a tarriff law in 1891, requiring foreign manufacturers to label their products with the country of origin. Thirty years later, an amendment required addition of the words, “Made In.” Thus my plates date to some time after 1921, but before 1969 when the company went out of business. My sense is that they are no newer than the 1940’s.
Dealers often use the terms, spongeware and spatterware interchangeably, but from what I can tell, there are actually three categories to be discerned: stick spatterware, spatterware, and spongeware. Many pottery experts believe the decorating process had nothing to do with the “spattering” of paint. In fact, all three types likely involved the sponging of paint. [With respect to spatterware (seen below), some have suggested that the tiny dots you see could have been (1) hand-painted one-by-one, (2) blown on via a pipe of some sort, or (3) flicked on via a brush.]
My plates fall into the first category of stick spatterware. Artisans created the floral shaped cobalt blue decoration around the edge of the plate and the smaller versions you see scattered just below them, with a decoratively cut sponge attached to the end of a stick. The artist would dip the bottom of the sponge into the paint and then “stamp” the image onto a piece of earthenware.
To decorate the center of the plate, the artist would have hand-painted the floral design with a paint brush. Other pieces might be decorated with hand-painted folk art designs (e.g., a birds, tulips, or houses) or with a transferware design.
Peafowl Spatterware Cup & Saucer, used w/permission, AntiquesPlus Etsy shop
Spatterware, dinnerware with the type of decoration you see here, tiny dots of paint on the edges (the “spatter”) with a central folk-art style figure (here, a “peafowl”), is the earliest of the three types and the most valuable. The piece you see here is listed for $95.00, an extremely low price; however, it has some condition issues. Single dinner plates run into the several hundred, even thousands of dollars. Blue is the most common color and the peafowl the most common figure, making them slightly less valuable. Among the most coveted pieces are those with rainbow stripes of spatter in rare shapes like pitcher and bowl sets.
Spongeware Water Jug, used with permission, Carol at PickerSistersYorktwn
Spongeware is, I believe, the American answer to European spatterware. Americans who could not afford imported spatterware, could likely afford American made spongeware. It is easily identified by its obviously sponged surface, usually with one color (often blue), in a random pattern. My feeling, after doing some pretty extensive reading, it that American spongeware has little in common with European spatterware. The body, made of stoneware, rather than earthenware, is heavy. The decoration is really quite crude, and its surface is salt glazed. It’s really an entirely different animal. But as I mentioned earlier, the terms spatter and sponge are used interchangeably for all three of these types of pottery.
Now that I’ve got everything nicely cleared up, I’ll throw a wrench at you. This earthenware plate, which bears the same Maestricht backstamp as my stick spatter plates (as seen above) also falls into the spatter/spongeware category, despite the fact that it contains no sponged decoration at all(!). It does however reflect the same bright cheeriness of European spatterware with its hand-painted decoration, and it is made from the same utilitarian earthenware. I would value this plate at about $15.00.
I’m still not quite certain of the value of these plates. Because they are 20th century pieces, rather than 19th century, they won’t have huge value, though I do believe they have strong decorative value. If I had to guess, I’d say they are worth about $20-25.00 each, but they would certainly brighten any room in the house.
Good Sources of Additional Info:
Keno Eye: Sponged and Spattered Ceramics
Spatterware with Pottery Expert Rufus Foshee (M. Stewart video)
Ceramics Collector: Gold at the End of Rainbow Spatterware
History of Spongeware Plates
Old Spatterware Worth Research Time
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