A Long Lost Time Influences Our Designs Today.

I have always been hugely interested and inspired by studio pottery, the likes of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. This interest has developed with a love of Scandinavian ceramics and textile design particularly those influential in the Mid-century  Modern period. As a vintage dealer I am always trying to increase my knowledge in all areas and lately have been spending some time learning about Mochaware. The term Mochaware comes from two kinds of stone that were shipped in large quantities from Arabia to London in the late eighteenth century through the port of Mocha on the Red Sea. The earliest Mochaware with slip decoration, combed marbling and many other effects was made in England in about 1770. The objects were first thrown on a wheel, following this they were put on a lathe and turned to remove any excess clay.  Textured bands were sometimes applied, and making sure the slip was still wet the characteristic dendritic designs were achieved by dotting the upside-down vessels with a few drops of tobacco infusion or urine. Chemical reaction and gravity created the geometric motifs associated with Mochaware.


Mochaware Jugs

White bodied creamware and pearlware jugs display an array of decorative slip surfaces that were applied as the vessel revolved on a horizontal lathe. The geometric designs were achieved mechanically on an engine-powered lathe, the other ornamentation was done by hand, with the slip oozing through goose quills, in a technique similar to that of icing a cake.

(Images taken from book ‘Kitchen Ceramics’- photography by Marie-Pierre Morel and Marc Schwartz)

When learning about this style of pottery what struck me was how current the wares seem, they appear to be so ahead of their time and wouldn’t be out of place today in any modern kitchen. It is amazing to see how dynamic and colourful these wares were incorporating geometric patterns that are so evident in today’s interior design, despite the wares dating back to the late 1700s and into the 1800s.


Mochaware mugs, in the early nineteenth century quart-capacity creamware and pearlware mugs were popular in homes and pubs throughout the northeastern United States. The shape of these mugs lends itself well to all manner of geometric and patterned decorations.

(Images taken from book ‘Kitchen Ceramics’- photography by Marie-Pierre Morel and Marc Schwartz)


Mochaware Mugs from the 1770s

(Images taken from book ‘Kitchen Ceramics’- photography by Marie-Pierre Morel and Marc Schwartz)


A Mochaware mug from the late 1700s which wouldn’t look out of place as a Scandinavian design from our modern world today.

(Images taken from book ‘Kitchen Ceramics’- photography by Marie-Pierre Morel and Marc Schwartz)

As mentioned I have a keen interest in studio pottery and love to see the influence of the Mochaware movement on the works of the likes of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper.


Lucie Rie Bowl


Lucie Rie Vase

 I have also found it so interesting to see links between this cutting edge Mochaware and inspiring ceramic and textile designers from the Mid-century era and in works today.

Stig Lindberg a Swedish ceramic, textile and glass designer had a long period with the influential Gustavsberg  pottery factory where he created whimsical studio ceramics and graceful tableware. In much of his work you can notice similarities with the characteristic geometric motifs of Mochaware.


Stig Lindberg Jug And Vase


Stig Lindberg Plate


Stig Lindberg Fabric Design

Famous textile designer Luciene Day used geometric shapes and lines in her work, combined with vibrant colours and also drew on nature as an influence for her designs. With her work you can notice strong correlations with the Mochaware movement that predated much of her work by more than two hundred years.


A Luciene Day Design

Even in designs today with the likes of Marimekko you can notice similarities with this dynamic ceramic period. It’s wonderful to see how designers draw on influences from the past and our natural surroundings to inspire their work and who would have thought a movement as far back as the late 1700s would still seem so current and dynamic today in such an advanced world. I find it quite comforting to think that perhaps we aren’t so far removed from a much more simple time, maybe life today with its technological advancements and fast pace is actually much more in tune with these times it certainly seems that way when it comes to Scandinavian and Mid-century design.

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