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PATTERNS OF MOCHA WARE
Patterns were made on Mocha ware by the following process. The thrower or man at the potter's wheel first formed the vessel by hand, after which it was sent to the turner, who put it on the lathe and shaved the sur face smooth, and often even gave it a pattern by engine turning; the white parts were thus tooled or turned out. The ground color or tint was then blown on the article from a bottle or atomizer by the turner, and while the surface was still wet, the piece was handed to an assistant, who placed it top downward and with a camel's-hair brush or feather or sponge, dipped into a prepared color solution composed of tobacco, turpentine, and acid, then touched the top of the moist zone so that the pigment flowed down and spread out in delicate mosslike tracery. This is the ingenious process that produced the curious arborescent effect and explains the seaweed and tree patterns. Some are set against a background of blue and pink tints that suggest the silhouette of trees against a winter sunset, and we wonder if the potter had some such impressionistic idea in mind. Rings of colored slip were trailed on from a vessel with a spout while the piece turned on the lathe.
The dots and cat's-eye and rope or wave and loop designs were painted on in a different manner. The brush must have been charged with paint the consistency of heavy cream, for the surface of the patterns seems raised. As we said before, the plaid and checkered patterns are molded or engineturned, while the various raised borders of herringbone, crescents, dots, guilloche, and horizontal lines are impressed, as are the foliaged decorations on spouts of pitchers and handles of teapots and pitchers.
The articles found in Mocha ware include large and small mugs, pitchers of various sizes, mustard pots, pepper pots, open salts, slop bowls, vases, teapots, covered sugar bowls, cups and saucers, mantel urns, chambers, double vases, and covered bowls.
One of the most interesting articles for the collector is the pepper pot, since it is more available than many of the others and is comparatively inexpensive. All types of patterns and characteristic decoration are found on pepper pots, including marbleized patterns and lathe-turned and impressed borders. Often the tree or moss silhouettes are especially fine, such as those on terra-cotta, blue, or dull-pink backgrounds. The shapes of pepper pots are equally as interesting as their design. They vary from large to small and from pear shape and cylinder shape to vase shape. The tops are flat or domed, with various patterns of pierced designs. One collector I know has several hundred pepper pots, all different. Pepper pots are usually footed, and the open salts which may be found to match are also footed.
Pitchers or jugs are also available for the collector. Although they are found in various sizes and shapes, the most common is the barrel shape. Many jug shapes are similar to those of Liverpool jugs, which were made at about the same time.
Perhaps the most popular article made in Mocha ware is the mug. Mugs are of various sizes, from the large heavy tavern size almost 9 inches in height to the small child's mug. Because of its size and area the mug affords the best opportunity for a study of the various designs. Handles are simple curves, but usually there is a foliation where the handle joins the body of the mug. Many mugs have engine-turned geometric designs.
The most refined articles of Mocha ware are the coffeepots or teapots, the cups and saucers-which are very rare-the covered sugar bowls, and the covered urns. These articles have molded detail on their handles and the finials of the teapot and the urn covers are molded flowers. Some Mocha urns have molded lions' heads as handles.
One of the most interesting features of Mocha ware is its color. Its subtle coloring appeals to the artist and to the sophisticated collector. Generally speaking, it is low in color intensity, the gray or drab tones such as buff, chocolate, terra cotta, and olive green predominating. These colors are given character by the use of contrasting black and white and strong intense blue and orange. Some of the colorings are as subtle as those of Japanese prints; others remind one of modern decoration in the use of buffs, browns, grays, and dull greens. Lavender-and-tan and pink-and-gray combinations are also beautiful-but rare. Perhaps the dull greens are the most beautiful, although the pieces with trees silhouetted against blue and rose washes on a tan ground have a special aesthetic value.
Since Mocha ware was made as recently as the early zoth century, the collector must be careful in his choice of pieces for his collection. If he does not have that rare ability of "feeling" the age of an antique, he must analyze each piece carefully before buying. Shapes indicate age. The more simple contours and the thinner weights are earlier than the heavy pieces. Subtle, fine coloring usually dates earlier than cruder colors and is also rarer. Pieces with refinements of decoration on the spouts and handles are a clue to better workmanship and to an earlier date.
Although Mocha was always a cottage or tavern ware and was usually made in such forms as jugs and mugs, some of the earlier pieces include teacups, covered urns, and coffee or teapots.