Slipware

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English Slipware mug, ca. 1740

Slipware is a type of pottery identified by its primary decorating process where slip was placed onto the leather-hard clay body surface by dipping, painting or splashing. Slip is an aqueous suspension of a clay body, which is a mixture of clays and other minerals such as quartz, feldspar and mica.

A coating of white or coloured slip, known as an engobe, can be applied to the article to improve its appearance, to give a smoother surface to a rough body, mask an inferior colour or for decorative effect. Slips or engobes can also be applied by painting techniques, in isolation or in several layers and colours. Sgraffito involves scratching through a layer of coloured slip to reveal a different colour or the base body underneath. Several layers of slip and/or sgraffito can be done while the pot is still in an unfired state. One colour of slip can be fired, before a second is applied, and prior to the scratching or incising decoration. This is particularly useful if the base body is not of the desired colour or texture.

Some prehistoric and historic cultures used slip as the primary decorating material on their ware. These include most prehistoric cultures of the Middle East, cultures in many areas of Africa, most pottery-making cultures in the Americas, early Japanese and Korean ware, Mycenean ware, the pottery of Ancient Greece and pre-industrialized potters in some areas of Great Britain, most notably Thomas Toft in the Staffordshire Potteries. Later cultures combined the use of slip with the application of high silica glazes.

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  • Eden, Victoria and Michael. Slipware, Contemporary Approaches. Published by A & C Black Ltd., University of Pennsylvania Press, G & B Arts International Ltd. ISBN 90-5703-212-0
  • Hamer, Frank and Janet. The Potter's Dictionary of Materials and Techniques. A & C Black Publishers, Limited, London, England, Third Edition 1991. ISBN 0-8122-3112-0.
  • Mary Wondrausch on Slipware (1986; second edition 2001) Wondrausch, Mary. Publ. A&C Black 1st ed. ISBN 978-0-7136-2813-5 2nd ed. ISBN 0-7136-2813-8