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Dish, Staffordshire, c.1675–1700

Slipware objects produced in North Staffordshire, a major centre of pottery manufacture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were sometimes dated and personalized to commemorate major events in the life cycle, including christenings and weddings. This large slipware dish features a man and a woman, each holding aloft flowers, with the names ‘Thomas’ and ‘Sara’ written on the rim. Since male and female figures holding flowers were a traditional symbol of courtship, it is likely that this dish was made to commemorate either the betrothal or marriage of a couple with these names. Large dishes of this kind were generally made for decorative purposes, and it is likely that this dish was displayed in the home of ‘Thomas’ and ‘Sara’ as an enduring material declaration of their commitment to and affection for one another. 


English slipware has traditionally been viewed as a crude, rather unskilled and unselfconscious type of material culture, but there is now compelling evidence to suggest the contrary: its workshop production involved different skills and processes, with a specialized division of labour from the late seventeenth century. Further, it is very likely that the ‘naïve’ decorative style typical of English slipware, as found on this dish, was quite deliberate, designed to appeal to the demands of a growing national market.