Friday, October 30, 2009

Dubious Origins

Click images for larger view, Christine Hopkins (left)

Mochaware is a favorite type of ceramic for many people because of its unique look and unlikely source. Mocha describes a decoration that appears on annularware; usually creamware, pearlware, or whiteware. It looks like trees or bushes and is often called 'dendritic' by archaeologists. The most common color is black, although the dendrites also come in pink, blue, and green. We have found pieces of mochaware in both Compton field and Jamison field

The vessels are decorated by dipping them into or painting them with diluted clay called slip. The dendritic designs are added to a slipped background by placing a drop of solution on the slip. The solution runs and spreads into its distinctive shape. The earliest known vessels date to 1799, but the design adorned factory made ceramics were produced well into the 20th century.

It is this solution that makes mochaware so memorable. While it may contain coffee, vinegar, turpentine, and metal oxides, the most commonly known ingredients are tobacco juice and stale urine. How would you like a set of dishes decorated with that?


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