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Loy, Solomon
Place Made:
Alamance County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
HOA: 1-5/8″; DIA: 8-9/16″
Accession Number:
This dish is one of many associated with the traditions of pottery made in the St. Asaph’s District of Orange County (now southern Alamance County), North Carolina. Splattered ware such as this plate is consistent with archeaological evidence found on the Solomon Loy (1805-1860) pottery site. Loy’s pottery moved away from the slip-trailed designs on a black slip background and incorporated more abstract designs. A red slip, made from the same clay as the dish, was applied over the surface of the dish and then white, green, and dark manganese clay slip were dashed onto the surface creating a mottled appearance of green, white, and black splotches. Beneath the lead glaze, the white slip appears yellow. A lead glaze was made up primarily of a lead oxide, most often red lead, that was ground, mixed with a clay so that the mixture would adhere to the pottery, and liquefied with water. Earthenware is a porous material and must have an applied glaze in order to hold liquids.

MAKER: Much of the earthenware from the St. Asaph’s tradition centered on the closely allied Albright and Loy families. Jacob Albright (1753-1825) was listed as a “potter” as early as the 1800 tax records for St. Asaph’s district, and he was also the father-in-law of potter Henry Loy (1777-1825) and the grandfather of potter Solomon Loy (1805-after 1865).

Ceramic fragments recovered at the site of Jacob Albright’s pottery document the production of earthenware with dark brown and black grounds and polychrome slip decoration. The decorative vocabulary of his pottery included marbleizing—a technique rare in southern slipware— as well as trailing in both abstract and naturalistic styles. Most of the fragments are from dishes, but bases from three mugs or tankards with polychrome banding indicate that Albright’s pottery also made decorated hollow ware. “An Inventory and an Account of Sales of the Estate of Jacob Albright Decd,” dated March 24, 1825 listed two potter’s wheels, a glaze mill, a clay mill, a grindstone, a pipe mold, a stove mold, and numerous crocks, dishes, basons, jugs, pitchers, and sugar pots. The amount of equipment would have been sufficient for a modest workforce.

Beckerdite, Luke, Johanna Brown, and Linda Carnes-McNaughton. “Slipware from the St. Asaph’s Tradition.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Carnes-McNaughton, Linda. “Solomon Loy: Master Potter of the Carolina Piedmont.” CERAMICS IN AMERICA. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation, 2010.

Most of the surviving examples of North Carolina slipware are associated with Germanic craftsmen who worked in and around the St. Asaph’s district of Orange County (now southern Alamance County). The forms and motifs introduced by the first potters who settled in that area coalesced in southwestern Germany, arrived with immigrant craftsmen who initially settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and persisted in North Carolina from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Unlike some areas of the backcountry, where interactions with different ethnic groups or various social and economic forces lead to the assimilation of Old World craft traditions, the interrelated and interdependent Germanic communities of southeastern Guilford County and southern Alamance County were obstacles to change. Slipware from the St. Asaph’s tradition differs significantly from that associated with the Moravians. Whereas the Moravians had a naturalistic vocabulary with theological underpinnings and appear to have limited their trailing to dishes and plates, the St. Asaph’s potters used a wide range of motifs— stylized crosses and plant forms, fylfots, imbricated triangles, and other geometric designs—on both flat and hollow ware forms. Surviving examples of slip-decorated hollow ware include pitchers, tankards, bottles, flasks, barrels, bowls, and distinctive covered vessels referred to during the period as “sugar pots.” The St. Asaph’s potters used dark brown and black grounds to a much greater extent than other American earthenware potters.

In Europe and America, potters working outside large metropolitan areas typically relied on kinship networks to safeguard craft knowledge; provide an affordable, trustworthy workforce; pass trade secrets from generation to generation; absorb competition and build patronage networks through intermarriage; secure raw materials and financing; and establish links to their community. As folklorist John Burrison observed, rural potters “guarded their family lines as carefully as they did their craft traditions.” As a result, family potting traditions were often as stylistically and technically monolithic as those associated with urban guilds or other governing associations. This was especially true when potters were part of a culturally homogeneous community, since makers and consumers were inextricably bound in the production of objects. At least seven members of the Loy family were potters. The American patriarch of that line was Martin Loy, who was born in Hessen, Germany, immigrated to Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and settled in Alamance County between 1755 and 1765. Generations of his family have maintained that the Loys were Huguenots, who escaped France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1688, and sought refuge in Germany. The Loys intermarried with other families who moved from Berks County to Alamance County, most notably the Albrights, who were originally of Swiss extraction. Martin’s grandson Henry married Sophia Albright, daughter of pottery owner Jacob Albright Jr. Much of the earthenware from the St. Asaph’s tradition appears to have centered on those allied families.

Solomon Loy’s career spanned the second quarter of the nineteenth century, a period when earthenware production began to wane and many potters in the piedmont region of North Carolina began shifting production to salt-glazed stoneware. He probably apprenticed with his father Henry, who worked at the pottery of the latter’s father-in-law Jacob Albright Jr. Albright’s manufactory may have been the primary training ground for many of the St. Asaph’s potters of Solomon’s generation. Archaeology at Solomon’s kiln site has documented the production of a wide range of forms, glazes, and decorative techniques including the use of dripped polychrome slips. The most dramatic objects with this type of decoration are dishes and bowls with black and cream-colored grounds and hollow ware forms with slip dripped directly onto the clay body. Most of Solomon’s trailed designs—stylized leaves, imbricated triangles, nested triangles, lunettes, and dots with jeweled edges—have antecedents in Alamance County pottery from the 1770s if not earlier. The St. Asaph’s cruciform motif, which found its last expression in his slipware, attests to the strength of artisanal and family traditions in that area of the piedmont.

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