This wheel-thrown, red earthenware ink stand is lead glazed and decorated with dark manganese slip beneath the lead glaze. 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. The central hole is where ink was poured and the surrounding four pierced holes were for dipping quills or nibs.
Though the particular potter who made this is unknown, it is an excellent example of what is referred to as “Great Road” pottery, following the valley from Southwest Virginia through Northeast Tennessee. Manganese splotch decoration was particularly popular in this area, and for a similar example, see Legacy in Clay: Pottery of Washington County, Virginia. Abingdon, VA: William King Regional Arts Center, 2005.