22nd June 2019 - 9th November 2019

Decorative and functional ceramics have been produced in Somerset for hundreds of years.

In England, during the 17th and 18th centuries, some of the greatest examples of slipware ceramics were produced. This popular decorative technique was widely used, prior to the introduction of enamel. Hand thrown earthenware pottery was decorated with coloured slip (liquid clay) and then glazed. Slipware ceramics may seem rustic, but their creation requires great skill. It is highly collectable.

‘The Art of the Potter’ explores how slipware developed in Somerset from the late 1600s onward.

Donyatt Pottery

Early production of slipware focused on Donyatt in south Somerset and on pottery for everyday use. Amongst the more unusual ceramic items on display is a bacon toaster from 1761 and an 18th-century urinal. Vessels from which to drink the ubiquitous Somerset cider feature too, including the famous Puzzle Jugs and Fuddling Cups

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The Donyatt pottery produced slipware for 800 years. Traditional techniques were passed from generation to generation. The pottery often has a distinctive yellowish-brown colour, mottled with black or green. Many examples included imagery or inscriptions that made the pottery a vehicle for social and religious comment.

Elton Ware, Clevedon

Elton Ware was very popular, sold by London retailers as well as by Tiffany’s in the United States. Elton’s designs were inspired by the primitive quality of early slipware and focused on the natural world. They were also indebted to Japanese patterns.

Fishley Holland Ware, Clevedon

William Fishley Holland experimented with colour and shape. He also created patterns on his brightly-decorated pots by scratching through the slip using sgraffito. His pots were especially popular following the First World War.

Wesuma Ware, Weston-super-Mare

Thomas Lemon and his son Cyril experimented with majolica glazes and sgraffito techniques. They produced distinctive pieces in orange, copper, soft green, honey and brown colours.

Visit the Exhibition

The exhibition ‘The Art of the Potter: Somerset Slipware’ is open 22 June to 9 November.

Entry is FREE as part of admission to the Museum.

More About Ceramics

‘The Art of the Potter’ is just one of the ways in which visitors to Somerset Rural Life Museum can discover more about the heritage craft of slipware ceramics.

This summer the Museum is delighted to be working with Somerset Art Works to bring an artist in residence to the Museum. Emilie Taylor will be producing an installation that responds to traditional Somerset slipware collections. Emilie’s work will be displayed in the Abbey Barn for Somerset Art Weeks this autumn.

Read more about the Emilie Taylor residency. 

IMAGE CREDITS: North Somerset Council


Dates and locations

Somerset Rural Life Museum
  • Saturday, 22nd June 2019 - Saturday, 9th November 2019, 10:00 - 5:00