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The Life of Josiah Wedgwood

W edgwood was continually seeking to lighten the color. of this earthenware and by 1775 achieved this goal by additions of Cornish stone. The Cream Ware was often decorated using a new technique called transfer printing (which is widely used in the ceramic industry today), a technique devised by John Saddler of Liverpool with whom Wedgwood collaborated from 1761 onwards, using the process throughout his whole period of creating. Later this technique was enhanced by the addition of hand painting to fill in areas in color. This innovation of using the transfer printing technique on ceramics should not be underestimated as it "...gave the pottery a sophistication that enabled it to vie on artistic grounds with porcelain, while the cost of the finished articles was much less. In a particular instance of decorative treatment there was nothing to choose in appearance between cream ware, Delftware and porcelain."

The contemporary taste called also for vases carved from stone, such as agate, granite or marble. Wedgwood saw here an opportunity to gain a share of the market by producing a ceramic ware that closely resembled these stone vases. The technique he used was not new, is called marbling and is still used today. On top of the 'marbled' clay he used different transparent glazes giving a tortoiseshell effect. He also invented a technique where oxides were sprinkled onto the vases and a clear lead glaze applied on top.

Another of Wedgwood's accomplishments was his so-called 'Pearl Ware', at first called 'Pearl White', which was introduced in 1779. After searching for one and a half decades for a whiter body, Wedgwood accomplished this by additions of kaolinic Cornish clay. In some publications the opinion is voiced that cobalt oxide was used to 'whiten' the glaze similar to a laundry bleach, but this may stem from the fact that cobalt was used in the underglaze decoration. (See David Buten: 18th C Wedgwood) This 'Pearl Ware', which was often executed in the same shapes as the 'Cream Ware' also found liking at the royal court and both wares existed side by side.

In 1769, around the time of the rise of neoclassicism in Europe (Winckelmann's 'Thoughts on the Imitation of Creek Works' was published in 1755 and his 'History of Ancient Art' in 1764), Wedgwood devised a new clay body which was to be known as 'Black Etruscan' or 'Black Basalt' ware. This was a clay body made from a red iron-bearing clay with additions of manganese- dioxide, which gave it it's black color. The formula rendered the body quite hard and dense after firing and it was possible to give it a highly polished finish.

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