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Mochaware

The Hidden Utilitarian Gem




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Mochaware - Earthworm or common cable pitchers and bowl
Earthworm or common cable pitchers and bowl
Mochaware was once
in the mid-1940's regarded as common kitchen ware and did not appeal to many collectors. It was utilitarian, common household pottery which was used in modest kitchens and taverns even in England and not placed on colonial cupboards only to be viewed. Mochaware is a soft pottery and much has been broken and can be found in privies and outhouses along the eastern seaboard.

It's also known as banded creamware or dipped ware. In general the term "mocha" is used to describe all dipped earthenwares. However, recent scholars say the term should only be used for tree-like or dendritic patterns. The scholarly name is industrialized slipware. In the old potteries it was referred to at Mocha or dip't ware. In 1799 it cost sixty percent more than plain creamware. By 1814, it appears on potters' price lists as only twenty percent more, and it stayed that way until the 1840's.

The decorations all created with liquid clay, or slip in wonderful colors make each piece unique adding to the desirability of mochaware. One scholar tracked over 4000 unique pieces and another has identified 22 distinct designs that make mocha different from other pottery are abstractions with fantasy names-cat's eyes, worming, marbleizing, trailing, all created with liquid clay, or slip, in the most vibrant colors. Most all mochaware has a clear lead glaze. Colored glazes were added to specific areas to produce the desired color.

Mochaware - Greengate Works
Greengate Works
Mochaware was first made by William Adams of the Greengates factory, Tunstall, England (1745-1805). Along with his blue painted and enameled pottery, it brought Adams into significant notoriety. This style of pottery, which could be sold at a moderate price, found considerable favor in some quarters from its very quaintness. It was white or cream ware, somewhat rudely decorated with seaweed or tree-like effects, in black or dark brown, on a pale colored zone of pale blue or light brown outlined with narrow bands of dark colors. The name "mocha" was derived from mukha, a precious stone, a variety of moss agate, found near the town of Mocha, in Arabia. English factories were turning out quantities of mocha, almost always hollowware- mugs and pitchers as opposed to flat pieces like plates.

Mochaware - Brick House Works
Brick House Works
Mochaware continued to be made by his Adams cousin, William Adams (1748-1831) of the Brick House, Burslem who started a large new factory at Sneyd Green, Cobridge Hall in 1770 and remained here until 1831. Burslem was the center and principal seat of the Potteries in the seventeenth century. It was still being made in the Adams factory as late at 1903.

Mochaware was also made in other British factories, among them Bristol and in the Cambrian Pottery in Swansea, South Wales Pottery at Llanelly, Leeds and Hull in Yorkshire, and in Glasgow, Scotland where the common drinking cups, bowls, and mugs were made as early as 1823. The grounds were usually brown, green, or yellow decorated with ornamental rings. Mochaware in classical shapes and distinctive greens and yellows was also made in four French factories after a group of English potters emigrated across the Channel in the early 1800's. A fair amount of French mocha was exported to Louisiana. However, it did not appear in America until later.

Mochaware - William Adams business card, used 1787-1805
William Adams business card, used 1787-1805
Fragments of pieces dug up at the Cambrian Pottery include marbled designs with colored slips, mugs and jugs with lines and bands of color and impressed bands, a pattern with crude stars and wavy lines, and the seaweed pattern. The pieces are seldom marked, but jugs and mugs have been found with a raised crest with a crown and plumes and the word "Imperial" impressed made about 1834.

One of the earliest mentions of mocha ware in America was an invoice dated 22 June 1797 for the wares being "ship'd by Messrs Rathbone, Hughes & Duncan of Liverpool & consigned to Messrs Cuttler & Armory of Boston on the Account and Risque of Wood & Caldwell of Boston" This invoice includes the following:
Crate 31
2 doz Jugs...Bastile..........
3 doz do.......Chainban.....
3 doz do.......F. Grey, plain
5 doz do.......Brick............
5 doz do.......Mocoa........

The Bastile, Brick Chainban and F. Grey refer to slip decorated patterns.

Here are a few other mentions of mochaware in colonial newspapers:

The Boston Daily Advertiser in 1815: "53 doz. Moco Bowls, 24 doz. check do, 23 doz. Painted do-B & G edged dishes. 21 Moco Mugs, 18 doz. Pitchers various patterns; gold neck Landscape, Hunting, Fluted gold Lions-Blue printed Turkish & Roman patterns."

The Boston Daily Advertiser on January 19, 1816, Blake and Cunningham have the following notice: "C.C. Dishes, plates flat & soup Bowls, Moco Mugs, Salad bowls, chambers. Also an assortment of fine Blue printed ware. Hunting Jugs."

The New York Commercial Advertiser, January 2, 1823, Wm. M. Shirley advertises: "10 crates new chequ'd or dipt bowls and jugs."

A notice appears on August 2, 1823 which actually gives the name of a maker of Mocha ware and associates the ware with other wares made at the same time.
Andrew Stevenson, 58 Broadway (Cobridge 1808-29)
50 crates edged plates, blue & green; 50 crated assorted painted tea ware;
100 crates C.C. ware assorted of every description;
100 hhds and crates blueprinted Tea and Table ware.
30 crates Mocho and col'd Pitchers and Bowls.
40 crates ass'd Willow Pattern plates Twiflers and Muffins.
For Sale by package from Liverpool. Manufacturers of goods they bring to market.

The New York Commercial Advertiser for May 30, 1825, the following notice appears: "8 crates C.C. Chambers, filled with Mocho Bowls." And in the same newspaper on June 28: "Mocha and green banded Jugs and Mugs," and on August 13 the same firm, Fish and Grinnell, advertise:
"Mocho, Marble, and Fancy Jugs, Mugs, Cups and Saucers, Bowls, Teapots, Sugar Boxes and Milk Jugs."


By 1850's mocha ware was being made in America by Edwin Bennett of the Bennett Pottery Company (1846-1936) in Baltimore, Maryland and in factories in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Archaeological excavations continue to provide a wonderful glimpse into the manufacture of mochaware.

In 1852, Charles Dickens, visited the Copeland Pottery Works at Stoke-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, England and described the process: "For (says the plate) I am well persuaded that you bear in mind how those particular jugs and mugs were once set upon a lathe and put in motion, and how a man blew the brown color (having a strong natural affinity with the material in that condition) on them from a blow pipe as they twirled ; and how his daughter, with a common brush, dropped blotches of blue upon them in the right places; tilting the blotches upside down, she made them run into rude images of trees, and there and end."

Classifications of Decoration

Mochaware - Creamware pint mug, dipped and banded, with mocha decoration and green-glazed reeding or rilling, ca. 1800, 5
Creamware pint mug, dipped and banded, with mocha decoration and green-glazed reeding or rilling, ca. 1800, 5" high
Tree, Seaweed, Dandelion - These dendritic motifs were applied using an artist's brush to release drops of a "mocha tea" solution containing ingredients such as urine, tobacco juice, ground iron scale, and hops onto the wet slip-coated surface of the vessel. The design spread instantly when the acid solution came into contact with the slip.

Mochaware - Barrel form jug with vertical tri-colored
Barrel form jug with vertical tri-colored "twigs" alternating with blue squiggles. Green-glazed herringbone rouletting, ca. 1810, 7" high
Twig Pattern - This method was produced when the tip of the slip cup was dragged across the vessel surface in a series of connected, opposing motions and was used as a decorative technique throughout the 19th century.

Mochaware - Pearlware pint mug with common cable or earthworm decoration and rilling at the rim. Found in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania and sold for $3,000 to a private collector a few years ago.
Pearlware pint mug with common cable or earthworm decoration and rilling at the rim. Found in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania and sold for $3,000 to a private collector a few years ago.
Rope or wave and loop - Variegated wave and loop patterns are popularly called "snail trails" or "earthworms." A multi-chambered slip cup traced the pattern in the wet slip, drawing perhaps two or three colors into looping patterns. It was a misnomer to believe that the potter's finger created this design. No two are the same, for there is always a subtle variation in shade and pattern that makes each piece unique. The earliest reference to multi-chambered slip pots came in a patent dated to 1811.

Mochaware - Mustard pot decorated with cat's eye and green glazed herringbone rouletting, 4
Mustard pot decorated with cat's eye and green glazed herringbone rouletting, 4" high
Cat's-eye - The cat's eye pattern is a round, largish dot usually composed of three colors of slip produced from single drops from a multi-chambered slip cup. It is a very clean design, especially striking on a light or very dark background. It is found in rows as a border design or in widely-spaced motifs around the body.

Mochaware - Unusual British creamware mochawear handleless cup and saucer, ca. 1800. Each slip marbled in black and slate blue on a pumpkin field within rouletted orange-glazed reeded borders. Diameter 3 1/2
Unusual British creamware mochawear handleless cup and saucer, ca. 1800. Each slip marbled in black and slate blue on a pumpkin field within rouletted orange-glazed reeded borders. Diameter 3 1/2" and 5 1/2", sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $5,916
Agate or marbled - Also know as variegated designs were made by working several colors of slip together on the ware to give a marbleized, swirled, or spattered surface. This usually resulted in a busy surface pattern, which was pleasingly balanced with bands of checkering or impressed designs at the rim and foot. Manufactured in the 1770's, it is the earliest know example of slip on refined earthenware. The process was used to imitate geological stones like marble. Increased simplicity and uniformity of decoration such as simple banding without additional slip or incised designs marked later dipped wares, generally after 1840. This simplification was a way of cutting the production costs.

Mochaware - Pearlware barrel form jug. Pattern cut through slip bands with two different knives between bends of green glazed herringbone and beads rouletting, ca. 1820, 6 1/2
Pearlware barrel form jug. Pattern cut through slip bands with two different knives between bends of green glazed herringbone and beads rouletting, ca. 1820, 6 1/2" high, private collection
Checkered or other engine -turned geometric designs- Engine turning lathes allowed potters to decorate the surfaces of ceramic vessels with complex, geometric designs including checks, dots, chevrons, interrupted lines and zigzags that cut through the slip to create these designs. After a leather-hard, unfired vessel was covered or banded with one or more colors of slipped clay, fixed blades and cams cut designs into the ceramic, revealing the lighter colored clay body underneath. Alternately, a vessel could be trailed with a slip (usually dark brown) after an engine turned or rouletted pattern was added. Using a lathe a second time to shave away the colored slip from the vessel surface left the darker colored slip in the recessed areas. This technique is also known as inlaid slip. Rouletted patterns, often employed around vessel rims, are one of the most common inlaid motifs. Checkered designs have a neat, precise feeling about them. A variety of small checks is found in horizontal bands, most often around the foot or rim and in conjunction with a pleasing specked background. Larger patterns of checkering are seen as a dominant motif for the decoration of the entire body of a mug or pitcher that has plain banding at the foot and rim.
Mochaware - Solid colored field slip quart mug with slip inlaid roulette band, ca.1800, 6
Solid colored field slip quart mug with slip inlaid roulette band, ca.1800, 6" high, private collection
Plain banded - usually consists of horizontal color bands in varying widths, perhaps of only one color contrasting with a solid ground color. Other variations of banding range in width from a series of very narrow horizontal lines to rather wide bands, sometimes broken at intervals to give a checkered or almost plaid effect. Some ware is decorated in a very simple fashion with only one or two bands around the body.

Mochaware - Pearlware quart mug with trailed slip decoration. Attributed to Enoch Wood, and Sons, Staffordshire, C1830, 6
Pearlware quart mug with trailed slip decoration. Attributed to Enoch Wood, and Sons, Staffordshire, C1830, 6" high, private collection
Slip decoration of rings, dots, and wavy lines - trailed slip decoration is a direct development from earlier slip trailing used on coarse earthenwares of the 17th and 18th centuries. Trailed slip designs incorporated curved lines, dots, squiggles, and representational images of flowers and leaves. Trailed slip designs were most often created using a single chamber slip cup, sometimes outfitted with multiple quills from which slip flowed. Multiple chamber slip cups could also be used to create multi-colored designs.

Mochaware - Creamware jug with dipped fans, ca. 1810, 8
Creamware jug with dipped fans, ca. 1810, 8" high, private collection
Dipped Fan Decoration - These motifs have also been called tobacco, balloon, palmate, lollipop, leaf, medallion, and feather. One method of producing this design involved filling a small, round shallow container with different color slips in pie or wedge shaped segments, followed by dipping the side of the vessel into the slips. After sitting the vessel upright, gravity would cause the colored slips to run down towards the base, creating the handle of the fan. Fans could also be created using only one color of slip.It is one of the most valuable types of mochaware.

Mochaware - Teapot with combed marble decoration and green-glazed rilling, 5 1/2
Teapot with combed marble decoration and green-glazed rilling, 5 1/2" high, private collection
Combed designs - found on banded creamware were made by applying contrasting colors of slip directly on the ware, using a toothed devise to "comb" the colors into chevrons, zig-zags, or swirls. This method was also employed in the decoration of American red ware and early forms of English slip-decorated earthenware.


Often the same article has several types of decoration combined, such as tree and cat's-eye, or twig and cat's-eye, or tree and rope. Many pieces have a combination of impressed and painted horizontal bands as their only decoration.

Mochaware - British pearlware mochaware dipped fan pattern pepper pot, ca. 1820. Of baluster form, banded in dark brown with three dark brown, rust, tan, and white fans on a butternut slip field, 4 1/2
British pearlware mochaware dipped fan pattern pepper pot, ca. 1820. Of baluster form, banded in dark brown with three dark brown, rust, tan, and white fans on a butternut slip field, 4 1/2" high. Sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $12,180
Patterns were made on Mocha ware by the following process. The thrower or man at the potter's wheel first formed the vessel by hand, after which it was sent to the turner, who put it on the lathe and shaved the surface smooth or often gave it a pattern with the engine turning process; the white parts were thus tooled or turned out. The ground color or tint was then blown on the article from a bottle or atomizer by the turner, and while the surface was still wet, the piece was handed to an assistant, who placed it top downward and with a camel's-hair brush or feather or sponge, dipped into a prepared color solution composed of tobacco, turpentine, and acid, then touched the top of the moist zone so that the pigment flowed down and spread out in delicate mosslike tracery. This is the ingenious process that produced the curious arborescent effect and explains the seaweed and tree patterns. Some are set against a background of blue and pink tints that suggest the silhouette of trees against a winter sunset, and we wonder if the potter had some such impressionistic idea in mind. Rings of colored slip were trailed on from a vessel with a spout while the piece turned on the lathe.

Additional Decorations Uses
  • Rouelette bands- This is a band that is usually generated at the rim of the mochaware piece. It was created by using an embossed rouletting wheel when the piece was put in a lathe. The wheel would be pressed into the desired area to create the band of repeating decoration. Green glaze was often used on the rim which would look darker in the deeper parts of the pattern. Blue and yellow was sometimes used. This banding was a very common practice between 1810 and 1860.

  • Rilling- Also known as reeding which also occurs at the rims of the pieces. Grooves are created by the use of a sharp-toothed tool.
Identification

Since mochaware almost never have maker's marks, they are difficult to date accurately. Knowing a few simple facts may help with the identification of mochaware.

The earliest mocha was made of caneware, a tan clay made by Wedgwood that didn't take a shiny glaze. Most examples of mocha-type decoration made before 1830, are found on creamware, a light-bodied English earthenware covered with a tin-oxide slip glaze, or pearlware, creamware with cobalt added to the glaze for whiteness. When pearlware went out of fashion around 1830, mocha decoration was applied to yellow ware, a type of earthen ware underglazed in a yellow slip varying from a warm pumpkin to a dull tan color, with a clear overglaze.

American-made mocha is murkier, both as to information and in appearance. American potteries weren't industrialized until the middle of the nineteenth century and by then mocha designs were well past their peak of virtuosity. American mocha was made of buff-colored clay or yellowware, usually with a standard band of seaweed, or a looping "worm." It's known to have come from factories in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, (Brockville Works) and Virginia (the Shenandoah Pottery), and Baltimore, Maryland (Bennett Pottery Company).

Mochaware - British pearlware dipped fan pattern porringer, Shillinavogy Townland County Antrim, Northern Ireland, ca. 1830, Sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $7,424
British pearlware dipped fan pattern porringer, Shillinavogy Townland County Antrim, Northern Ireland, ca. 1830, Sold at Northeast Auctions 10/26-28, 2010 for $7,424
Creamware and pearlware look and feel more refined. They have a brilliant glaze, the best color, the most interesting designs, and are generally the collectors' choice. American mocha is not in the same league with the best English and French mochaware. It also tended to become rather heavy and thick walled and appeared to be not as finely executed as the earlier mochaware. The handles of most specimens are almost always white with a plain but graceful curvature. Pitchers frequently have molded spouts and handles with nicely molded foliate terminals. Other wares are decorated with applied molded sprigs or medallions in addition to the colorful slip decoration.

Beginning production dates for certain types of decorations have usually been determined from tools used in producing the designs or descriptions in dates potter's records. For the collector, here are a few important clues to help you date the piece:
  • Solid color slip fields and banded wares - Production began in the 1770's and ended in the early 20th century.

  • Variegated surfaces - Production began in the late 18th century and was in decline by the first decade of the 19th century.

  • Engine turned- Production began in the 1770's and ended by the late 19th century.

  • Mocha (tree, seaweed, dendritic design) - Production began in the 1790's and ended in 1939.

  • Multi-chambered slip (cat's eye, cabling, twigging)- Production began in 1811 with a patent for a multi-chambered slip pot. Twigging production was used throughout the 19th century.

  • Fan decoration - Production began in 1805 and ended in 1840.

Typical mochaware forms

Mochaware - Mocha pitcher, 19th century with cat's eye and navy blue decorations, 6 3/4
Mocha pitcher, 19th century with cat's eye and navy blue decorations, 6 3/4" high, sold at Pook and Pook 1/16/2010 for $11,700
Mocha decoration has been found on a wide variety of forms, most of them hollow pieces. Mugs and bowls are most common, but mustard pots, vases, cups and saucers, teapots, pepper pots, open salts, shaker, jugs, and beakers are also known. Flat pieces like plates and saucers are extremely rare. Perhaps the most popular article made in Mocha ware is the mug. Mugs are of various sizes, from the large heavy tavern size almost 9 inches in height to the small child's mug. Handles are simple curves, but usually there is a foliation where the handle joins the body of the mug. Many mugs have engine-turned geometric designs. The most refined articles of Mocha ware are the coffeepots or teapots, the cups and saucers-which are very rare, the covered sugar bowls, and the covered urns. These articles have molded detail on their handles and the finials of the teapot and the urn covers are molded flowers. Some Mocha urns have molded lions' heads as handles.

Mochaware - Mocha pepper pot, 19th century with blue and brown bands, 4 3/4
Mocha pepper pot, 19th century with blue and brown bands, 4 3/4" high, sold at Pook and Pook 10/3/09 for $1,755
The subtle coloring of Mocha appeals to the artist and collector.It is low in color intensity, colors like buff, olive green, chocolate, and terra cotta predominating. These colors are given character by the use of contrasting black and white and strong intense blue and orange. Perhaps the dull greens are the most beautiful, although the pieces with trees silhouetted against blue and rose washes on a tan ground have a special aesthetic value.

Since Mocha ware was made as recently as the early 20th century, the collector must be careful in his choice of pieces for his collection. If he does not have that rare ability of "feeling" the age of an antique, each piece should be analyzed carefully before buying. Shapes and tooling vessels indicate age. Thinner weights are earlier than heavier pieces. The earlier samples had simpler contours. Fine coloring usually dates earlier than cruder colors and is also rarer. Pieces with refinements of decoration on the spouts and handles are a clue to better workmanship and to an earlier date. Cups and saucers, plates, and porringers are rare in form. Even though the porringer we have pictured in our article has chips at the rim, it is the highest valued piece shown.

Source: Research & text by Bryan Wright

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