The Redware Pottery of Lancaster County

Pennsylvania Dutch redware refers to the pottery individually made from local Lancaster County clay which is burned in a kiln until the color reaches a brick red. The clay gradually darkens to various deeper reds with the usage and the passing of time.

Redware was commonplace along the East Coast during Colonial times. The largest quantity and the finest quality were generally found in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, and North Carolina.

Originally the local clay is a greenish color. After it is shaped, it is set aside to dry until the winter. At that time, the wares would be baked in the kiln until it reached the desired color.

Pottery that is meant to hold liquids would require glazing. This is generally done by spreading a thin mixture of the glaze on the interior surface or to pour some of the mixture inside the bowl or jar and swirl the glaze mixture about. Ornamental pieces are glaze on the exterior as well.

There are two basic categories. The first is that used for functional usage. These included jugs, plates, jars, bowls, roof tiles and so forth. They would be glazed, unglazed, or partly glazed depending upon preference. These items were used for utilitarian purposes.

The second category is that of decorated ware or "fancy" glazed ware. These wares also included plates, bowls, and jars. However, unlike the first category, these wares tended to be used for decorative purposes.


Slipware is the term used where the pottery is glazed on the exterior and a design has been applied to the exterior glaze.

Slipware designs range from abstract wavy or squiggly lines to drawings of shapes, birds, or flowers. Names of individuals are some times put on the pieces but that is more often to be found in the south or in New England rather than in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

The slipware designs were applied by a quill cup which is a container with from one to several holes at the bottom. Hollow quills are then fitted into these openings where the decorative liquid "slip" through the hollow quills and is applied to the surface of the pottery. The artist can then create the design of his or her choice.

The decorative liquid mixture which is used in the slipware contains a light-colored clay which stands in relief to the surface of the pottery.

After the design is "slipped" unto the surface of the redware pottery, it is usually beaten down before it dries. This helps the surface design from wearing from use and time.

Sometimes coloring agents are using in the glazing process for additional style.

If you would like to learn about other examples of Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art created by local Lancaster,PA artists, please see:

Amish QuiltsBasketryButter MoldsChalkware
FrakturHex SignsSgraffitoSpatterware

If you're interested in learning more about Lancaster County's unique folk art during your visit, why not check out some of the best Pennsylvania Dutch Fork Art museums where you and your family can experience firsthand this rich and complex and relatively unknown artistic culture.

Return to Pennsyvania Dutch Folk Art

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