At the turn of the last century, when North America had a healthy and robust ceramic industry of its own (as opposed to the offshore imports dominating the market today), stoneware was the most common and affordable choice for everyday domestic wares. Although for several years my primary interest has been Industrial-Revolution-era kitchen ceramics manufactured in Europe, my focus has recently expanded to include wares made by and for middle-class Americans during this same time period.
In collecting and using these pieces made centuries before, I feel connected to a history and legacy of hardworking artists, craftspeople and labourers who invested their resources, spirit, energy and pride in manufacturing goods for themselves and their people. The unique local designs and high quality of production both reflect and generate a communal sense of identity and shared values. Unfortunately, industrial ceramic production has dropped to a minimum in America and Europe and has been non-existent in Canada for many years.
I picked up this beautiful pink McCoy bowl last Sunday at the market for $7, a total deal for a piece already well-priced at $15. Heather and I are also passionate about the green glaze used on the other bowl. I could go on about ceramic colour, but instead let's just say I'd rather chance the possible negative effects of lead and other heavy metals used in glaze recipes of the past in order to live with the beautiful, rich colours you can't achieve today with food-safe alternatives.
Read here to learn about McCoy and here to learn about Haeger.