Learn about ceramic-making processes, types of decoration, and different uses of ceramics through our A – Z.

Attic Greek Lekythos

Lekythoi are vessels from ancient Greece used for storing oils, especially olive oils. Lekythoi are characterised by their narrow body and one handle that is positioned near the neck of the vessel indicating that it was used for pouring.1 Lekythoi and the oil they contained were used in funerary ritual, they were most often made of pottery and decorated with the white ground technique. The White ground technique developed in the Greek region of Attica around 500 BC. The technique was white with black drawings, as the surface of the decoration was fragile it was mostly used for funerary use, in that it was not used often. The Attic Greek Lekythos from the Hunt Collection illustrates the white ground decoration, although now faded.

Attic white-ground lekythos | Ceramic | 5th century BC | The Hunt Collection | PD


Belleek Pottery is the oldest producer of porcelain in Ireland, specialising in Parian China – a white, fine, vitreous porcelain that resembles statuary marble, made in a vast array of unglazed and glazed, enamelled and gilded wares. In 1853 John Caldwell Bloomfield commissioned a survey of his estate including a mineral survey of the soil. The soil on the land was found to be rich in Kaolin, the clay that is needed to make fine porcelain. Entering into a partnership with merchant David McBirney of McBirney’s, one of nineteenth-century Dublin’s great department stores, Bloomfield started work on the pottery in the late 1850s. Production at the pottery initially centred on high-quality domestic wares such as pestles & mortars, floor tiles, and telegraph insulators.2


By the mid-1860s, Belleek had established a growing market throughout Ireland and Britain and was exporting fine wares to North America and Australia. The ‘Harp Shamrock’ tea set that may be familiar to most was introduced in the 1904 Belleek catalogue and continues as one of Belleek’s most popular lines. Throughout the 20th century Belleek continued to produce fine Parian ware, and elaborate baskets, the pottery continues to pride itself on excellence as each piece of Traditional Belleek passes through 16 pairs of hands from design to the finished piece.3


This Belleek Candelabrum in the form of a Stag’s Head is dated to the black second period of Belleek (1891 – 1926) The piece consists of the head of a stag supported by three scrolled acanthus leaves. The antlers form three branches and these support three candle holders in the form of sea urchins.

Belleek candelabrum, Stags Head | Ceramic,Porcelain | 19th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD


Also known as Nene Valley Colour Coated Ware taking its name from the Nene Valley in Northamptonshire is a Romano-British (mid 2nd to 4th century AD) ceramic recognizable from its dark slip and raised barbotine (ceramic slip).4 Extant examples of Castorware are often beakers and Hunt scenes are common. Our example of castorware is a fine example of a Castor Ware Hunt Cup, in that it is decorated with a hunting scene, here a dog chasing a hare.

Castor ware cup | Ceramic | 2nd Century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Dublin Delftware

Dublin Delft pottery was started by John Chambers during the 1730s and continued in his name until 1952 when it was taken over by Capt. Henry Delamain who had briefly sold imported Chinese pottery and had acquired expertise in delftware or tin-glazed pottery. Delamain hired English potters and pioneered coal-fired kilns and managed to revive the faltering business of Irish pottery making. After Henry died in 1757, Dublin delftware continued to produce under various enterprises but ceased production completely by 1774. 5 Dublin delftware scenes are often romantic landscapes in brown or blue, painted on pieces such as plates, bowls and barrels, such as this example from the Hunt collection. This piece is dated to the pre-Delamine period, therefore pre-1748. It is white with manganese decoration of an Italianate landscape and the heraldic crest of the Molyneux family of Castle Dillon, Co. Armagh.


Wine or brandy delftware barrel | Ceramic,Glazed Composition,Delftware | 18th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Earthenware Watering Pots

Earthenware pots such as these were very common in England during the Middle Ages. Often glazed or partially glazed these pots come in two shapes a pot in the form of a jug or with a ‘rose-type’ spout like the example below. 

These were made of clay, hand-thrown and often display thumb printed designs. Such watering pots were used to water plants indoors and outdoors but also may have been used to dampen down dust on inside floors. 6  

Watering-pot of the rose-type | Ceramic, Earthenware (lead-glazed) | 16th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Faience or Faïence

Ivented initially around 14th century faience is a general term that includes all tin-glazed items faïence is more associated with French white-glazed porcelain, it in fact includes Maiolica, Delftware and Italian Faience. The ability to white glaze pottery through an oxide lead glaze-slip meant allowe for colourful decorations to be added, this paired with high-heat kilns resulted in durable, highly coloured decorative pieces.7 The faience plate below, is coloured in blue, green and yellow typical for French faience of the period. 

Faience plate | Ceramic,Glazed Composition,Faience | 19th century AD (probably) | The Hunt Collection | PD

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lekythos
  2. https://www.belleek.com/en/About-Us/cc-1.aspx
  3. https://www.shamrockgift.com/blog/belleek-china-irish-pottery-history/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nene_Valley_Colour_Coated_Ware
  5. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG183810
  6. https://www.objectlessons.org/houses-and-homes-tudors/watering-jug-tudor-replica/s58/a945/
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faience


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