A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why Majolica?

People are always asking me why I like majolica.

I first heard the term "majolica" in 1984 when I was working in a small French housewares shop in Philadelphia. It was an extraordinary little store that combined the latest in contemporary housewares with charming and unique European merchandise and antiques collected by the owner for sale at the store. Periodically, the owner would take shopping trips to Europe to bring interesting inventory to the store. One summer, she brought back a number of contemporary dessert wares from France that she called "majolica." It fascinated me by its quaintness and bright colors.

The majolica she brought back that summer sold very quickly and she reordered regularly to meet the demand of the upscale clientele of the shop.
Have you ever noticed how often you hear a new word once you've learned it? This happened to me with majolica. After seeing the dessert wares at the shop I started to notice majolica everywhere, in gift shops, in antiques shops, at department stores. I began to see it wherever I went and became more and more intrigued by it. Aside from the colors, the whimsical nature of the ware attracted me. I saw teapots shaped like cauliflowers, dishes shaped like leaves and compotes shaped like dolphins. It wasn't long before I bought my first piece, a begonia leaf dish at an antiques show in a mall.

I was hooked.

Twenty-five years later it still fascinates me. The huge volume of it made in the last half of the 19th century has made every majolica search a new lesson to learn. I have seen hundreds of thousands of pieces over the years yet I am still regularly surprised by things I've never seen before.

It's a passion, a teacher, an addiction and a hobby.

Oh, and it's pretty to look at too!

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