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Spatterware and Spongeware

Spatterware is a type of pottery that, not surprisingly, is marked with colored spatter designs, sometimes along the border and sometimes over the entire surface. The earliest examples have been dated to the late 18th century, but the most commonly found spatterware was made in the first half of the 19th century. The designs decorated plates, bowls, pitchers, serving trays, and other tableware.

Spatterware -- although manufactured in the renowned pottery-making county of Staffordshire in England -- was made with America in mind. Some collectors theorize that, because of the use of the same animals and fruits that often adorn Pennsylvania Dutch pottery, spatterware was made specifically for the Pennsylvania Dutch, but no evidence exists to prove this. Bought by the common populace for everyday use, spatterware plates sold for about 10 cents apiece, although the price some examples command today can be in the thousands of dollars.

Spatterware is often decorated with striped or rainbow patterns with motifs of peafowls, thistles, and roses. The value increases with the number of color combinations on a piece: Two colors are common; six are exceptionally rare. Because they were made in quantity, there are very rarely marked examples of spatterware.

Collectors, who usually find pieces at antiques stores and shows, should be careful to examine a piece before negotiating a price. Be sure the dealer marks the date of the piece, its condition, and a description on the sales slip.

After spatterware, artisans began to make spongeware (patterns were applied with a sponge). The new mode of decorating originally included motifs from spatterware. Later, only the spongeware pattern, usually blue, was applied.

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