The History of Blue and White PotteryBlue is one of the colours of the rainbow and it has become associated with many things over time. Perhaps the connections with the sky and the seas are the most strong. However it also been used to denote cold, loyalty, truth and conservatism. In past eras the blue coloured pigments for clothing were scarce and expensive leading to the colour being related to wealth and royalty eg Royal Blue. It is a colour that is not available as a natural ceramic pigment but needs cobalt ore to be refined to produce the highly intense blue colour. In the early days the ore was roasted and then further melted with a a glass to produce the early pigments of Zaffre and Smalt.
The origins of blue colour in pottery are a little confusing.
Cobalt has been the source of pigments for English blue and white pottery since the eighteen century and these were the pigments used to make the famous Spode patterns of Willow and Indian tree. Since that time blue and white has never disappeared from our lives.
Blue and white in the 21st Century
|Blue Hydrangea from Peregrine Pottery
|Denby Imperial Blue
The PigmentsAlthough modern blue ceramic pigments started with Zaffre and Smalt, their development has continued and modern day pigments provide high intensity with the ability to meet specific colour tones or firing temperatures. Whilst the use of the basic cobalt oxide in glazes is still common for craft or studio glazes looking for a low cost, the use of cobalt silicates and cobalt aluminate pigments has flourished. They extend the inter-mixable nature in glaze or coloured decoration and often provide improved dispersion characteristics. Some examples of the colour tones available using the different pigment types can be seen in the table below.
(NB Web colours are never an exact match for ceramic tones)
Cobalt zinc silicate
Where next for Blue and White?Whatever your interest blue continues to feature in pottery decoration across the world. I predict this fashion is unlikely to change soon. I would love to hear whether you agree and your thoughts on blue and white and why its appeal continues so strongly?
More information and other technical articles on pottery and ceramics can be found at my website The Potters Friend.
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