Trenton (NJ) Ceramics Symposium explores the city’s vintage pottery decorating trade

This year’s Trenton Ceramics Symposium will focus on the many facets of Trenton’s ceramics decorating industry. The day-long symposium called Skin Deep: Trenton’s Decorating Trade will be held April 2, 2011, in the Auditorium of the New Jersey State Museum and the galleries of the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion.

Advertising Plate, decorated in the workshop of Joseph F. Keil and Robert E. Greusser, Trenton, NJ, 1882-1883; 3 5/8 inches in diameter.
Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Rickard.

When a ceramics industry grows as large as the one that existed in Trenton at the turn of the 20th century it becomes extremely complicated with many sub industries that feed into it and off of it. In Trenton, N.J., these sub industries included merchants who dealt in raw materials and specialized machinery as well as independent decorating workshops. The workshops provided mass market decorations as well as custom painting on order to the potteries or to retailers and middlemen in the retail business.  


Tankard decorated by DeLan and McGill, about 1910.  Courtesy of Trenton
Museum Society, 1983.041.

Award-winning historian and author Regina Lee Blaszczyk will is presenting the keynote address explaining how the workshops supplied the potteries with decorations and decorators and highlight the work of selected decorating shops. Additional speakers for the day will focus on the current exhibition at Ellarslie, Artists and Decorators of the Trenton Pottery Industry, which is on view until May 8, 2011. The exhibition features the work of the artists and artisans, known and
anonymous, who worked in Trenton’s premier potteries from 1882 into the
1920s. In addition, the museum’s permanent exhibition and study collection on
Trenton’s pottery industry includes mass market decorating by Trenton’s
many workshops operating well into the twentieth century.

The symposium will begin with registration and coffee at 10 a.m.  The morning session will include Blaszczyk’s keynote address and one or two shorter talks. Lunch will be served at Ellarslie, where participants can view the current exhibition. A show–and-tell session will follow at Ellarslie from 2 to 4 p.m. Audience members can bring items decorated in Trenton for experts to examine and discuss. Each participant will be limited to submitting one item and no appraisals will be given.

Whiteware plate decorated by Tatler Decorating Studios.  Courtesy of Trenton Museum Society, 1981.006

The symposium is open to the public. The registration fee is $35 if paid by March 18. Members of the Potteries of Trenton Society, the Friends of the NJ State Museum, and the Trenton Museum Society may attend for $30, if paid in advance. Everyone who pays at the door will be charged $40.  Registration includes all lectures, lunch, and the show-and-tell session. A mail-in registration form may be downloaded and printed from POTS website or interested parties may contact POTS President Patty Madrigal at 609-695-0122.


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