is tin-glazed earthenware made white by the addition of tin oxide to
a lead glaze foundation, or background coat. (Today, lead is no longer
used for safety reasons). This application gives the body a glassy,
dense white cover that does not become highly fluid when fired. Decorations
can then be painted with out running or blurring on the white surface.
The white surface also serves as a strong complementary ground for the
overlying colors. Firing at a low temperature fuses the glaze and sets
the color of the decoration.
Maiolica is an art form dating back to 14th century Italy. The name
originates from that date when the principal port for Italy was Pisa.
Spanish Moors introduced the pottery to Italy sailing to Pisa via Majorca
(in Italian, "Maiorca") . The Europeans thought the pottery
originated there and hence the name was born.
Tin glazed items were not invented by the Italians, in fact the beauty
of eastern ceramics had been well known to the Renaissance Italians
for a long time. The first examples of this technique were found in
Baghdad and dated to the 9th Century - there symmetrical patterns were
painted in blue and white.
However by the by the end of the 11th century Islamic pottery, including
lusterware, had been in widespread use for the embellishment of religious
and civic buildings. It is thought to have been introduced by the crusaders
at the as trophies demonstrating victories over the pagans by powerful
During the 13th through to the early 15th century Tuscany had good trade
relations with Moorish Spain and imported large quantities of lusterware
from Spain. This is when the Italians began to work with tin glazed
ware. It is interesting to note that the only difference between the
Italian and Spanish products of this period is the absence of metallic
luster on the Italian wares. Italian Maiolica eventually dominated the
pottery of Europe and set a trend that lasted more than three hundred
Each piece begins with "black" clay* (note: “black”
clay is a dark greenish-gray color) ; it is fired once and becomes the
recognizable terra cotta color. Once fired a second time with glaze
and pigments, their trademark fiery colors emerge. The first historical
period of Italian Maiolica encompasses part of the 14th century as well
as most of the 15th century. During this period, the objects were created
mostly for utilitarian purposes with decorations based on abstract and
*Today, red, buff and even white earthenware is used. Using white earthenware
with underglazes applied to greenware and clear glaze applied after
the first firing (thereby eliminating the need for white glaze at all)
is a relatively modern technique, as white earthenware was not known
until after the Renaissance. However, CLAYCOOKPOT.COM creates Italian
Maiolica in the Old World way, using only red or buff terra cotta and
a white tin-based ground upon which colors are painted and then sealed
with clear glaze. This time-tested technique is still practiced in Italy
CARE OF WARES: These wares are both food and dishwasher safe, and all
glazes are lead-free. They can also be used in the microwave (except
if decorated with gold luster), but must not be subject
to extreme changes in temperature, as this will crack the pieces. Not
for use in the oven.