Many years ago when rooms were lit only by oil lamps and candles, people loved to have things around them that shone and glowed in this soft light.
Wealthy people had their silver and glass, their burnished fire-dogs, their gilded furniture: but the less well off had to do it in other ways. One of these was by having lustred pottery and china on their shelves and mantlepieces reflecting the light from the fire into dark corners and recesses.
The varieties of lustre are many and watch out for the plethora of modern forgeries that plague the Novice buyer. The choice of lustre that appeals may be just one type or many types.You may well like to concentrate on the Silver ‘resist’ which is the silver lustre only appearing on sections of the item as opposed to the whole item being covered in silver lustre which was an attempt by Victorian potters to emanate actual silver.
Complete silver lustre is not very appealing as in time the lustre wears thin and gives a patchy appearance.
However, silver resist is in great demand and is collected avidly by many collectors worldwide. The effect is given by a thin film,not of silver, but of platinum. The pattern is really in reverse for it is first painted on with an oily substance which will ”resist” or throw off anything applied to it. After the lustre is put on and has dried, the parts protected by the oily substance can be wiped clean revealing the pattern in white or whatever colour the ground might be.
White is the most usual but a lot of collectors go after the canary and the blue. Pink and apricot also occur but they are rarer. Copper lustre is another general field which many people like to concentrate on.It varies a good deal in quality but the best has some fine flower and fruit painting, or landscapes.
Often you will find jugs which have relief decoration, such as a mask spout. Points to look out for here are the quality of the potting, and the standard of workmanship in the painting. Unfortunately there is a great deal of inferior work and if you buy a poor piece and afterwards put a good piece alongside it, you will greatly regret your earlier purchase. In the field of jugs,mugs etc. perhaps the largest class is where only a little lustre has been applied, either to point up figures, as in the well known hunting jugs, or in the form of bands of silver or purple.
To this latter group belong all those wonderful items, transfer printed with pictures and mottoes or rhymes, generally called ”Sunderland lustre”, although they were made in many other places as well. The verses usually go like this example:- Success to the Fleece To the Plough and the Sail, May our taxes grow less And our Commerce ne’er fail. The rims around these ‘Sunderland’ items are painted with that ‘bubbly’ mottled sort of purpe/pink lustre, and this effect is got by blowing oil on to the painting through a pipe with a gauze end, thus creating all those bubbles.
The ”Farmers Arms” is seen a good deal, with the well known rhyme,”Success to the Farmer” and also with the British preoccupation with the sea we have lots of Mariner Rhymes such as the ”Sailors Farewell”. Distress me with those tears no more One kiss, my girl, and then adieu! The last boat, destined for the shore Waits,dearest girl, alone for you.
Soon, soon before the light winds borne Shall I be severed from your sight; You left the lonely hours to mourn And weep through many a stormy night. Mottoes, pious and impious, abound on these jugs, bowls, plates and plaques, and they give us a wonderful glimpse of the thoughts of the people in those far off days.
It is worth noting that the rhymes were made up by ordinary people and many by the potters themselves. A favourite lustre is Pink lustre. Pink lustre was used more on beautiful tea cups ,saucers and plates,teapots,milk jugs and sugar bowls and varies from deep purple/pink through to paler pinks almost pastel in colours.
Swansea potteries were famed as much as Staffordshire for their wonderful range of pink lustre wares., and many Welsh Dressers were laden with all types of lustre, ranging from the much loved Copper to the Pinks.
The wares range from the lightest earthenware to the toughest stone china and bone china. Almost none of it is marked and it is always best to buy lustre ware from Specialist dealers who have the experience to know the old lustre from the modern pieces as it is still being made today in large quantities. Finally,place your lustre collection where it can reflect the light of say a fireplace, in alcoves or shelves opposite the hearth.
The wonderful warm glow will delight as much as it delighted your great grandparents so long ago. Remember to clean lustre often but try not to use strong detergents as these may remove layers of the lustre, which eventually show as a” thinned ”area.with balding patches. Once you have purchased a few pieces it will not be too long before you are well on the way to becoming an avid collector of a unique product of British potting history.