Collections › MESDA Collection › Dish


Loy, Solomon
Place Made:
Alamance County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
earthenware –lead-glazed
HOA: 1 3/8″; DIA: 8 3/4″
Accession Number:
This lead-glazed earthenware 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. Archaeological evidence from the site of Loy’s pottery associates this design with Solomon Loy (1805-1860) whose pottery moved away from the slip-trailed designs on a black slip background and incorporated more abstract designs. Thrown on the wheel, this shallow dish has a wide rim or marley with a slightly upturned edge. A white slip was applied over the red earthenware clay and then manganese and red clay slip were splattered onto the surface creating a mottled appearance of red 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.

St. Asaph’s Tradition
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. w 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
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. w 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.

Claylines and Bloodlines

Solomon Loy
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. w
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.

(Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Credit Line: