Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Feather Edge 8.6 inch creamware plate, late 18th or early 19th century

I started writing this post when I heard about the death of Robin Williams. This is not a post about feather edge.  I wrote about feather edge for another post titled Shell Edge Or Feather Edge.  This post is about the disease called depression.   It is a disease that affects many of us.  It is not connected to life's adversities, although problems can be triggers.   Talk therapy and medication help with the disease.  For some it is finding the small things that give us hope and pleasure.  I am always reminded of Emily Dickinson's famous poem about hope.*

How lucky we are if we have feathers.  For me it is the love of collecting British ceramics, particularly transferware, and my family and friends.  Of course, clinical depression is not averted by a love of ceramics, family or anything.  Still, we are lucky if we can focus on what we love to help tether us to the world.

*I was first introduced to this poem when I read Woody Allen's 1970s book Without Feathers.  The book is filled with humor; sometimes jokey and sometimes black.  Humor can be another barricade against depression.  It also is not always enough.  Rest in peace Robin Williams.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Davenport (1794-1887) Toast Water Jug, ca. 1850

I wondered why some of the jugs in my collection had lids as well as strainers in front of the spouts.   I learned they were known as toast water jugs, and were used for medicinal purposes.  What is toast water?  According to Coysh & Henrywood's  The Dictionary Of Blue And White Printed Pottery 1780-1880 Volume II, p. 197,  "Toast Water was a drink intended for invalids made by pouring boiling water on to toast, allowing it to stand, and then straining off the liquid. The recipe is mentioned by Mrs. Beeton in early editions of her Book of Household Management."   Here is Mrs. Beeton's recipe from the section on Invalid Cookery;

I have been told the toast and water brew was used to settle one's stomach.  I wasn't sure, so I did a small amount of research.  Toast water does settle one's stomach.  It was also considered a way to get needed nutriment into a sick person (no glucose IVs in the olden days).  It reminds me of the plain toast (usually with sweet jelly) my mother used to give me when I was ill.  The toast, never burnt, was broken into pieces and placed in the jug.  Hot water was added.  When the brew cooled, the liquid was poured into a cup while the bigger bits were prevented from being poured by the strainer.

Davenport Toast Water Jug/Notice strainer in front of spout/It was used to strain the bits of toast
My newest toast water jug is patterned with farm implements and farm animals.  It is quite a bit bigger than my Davenport jug, which is 5 inches high.  The new jug is nearly 8 inches!  It also includes the name of the owner, Henry Easthope.  Perhaps he suffered from severe indigestion.

Toast Water Jug printed with farm animals and farm implements

Toast Water Jug printed with farm animals and farm implements

Toast Water Jug/Notice name, Henry Easthope

Strainer in front of the spout of the toast water jug

Here is a better recipe for toast water;

It is very clear that the toast should not be burnt!  The excerpt above is from The Modern Housewife Or Menagere(1850) by Alexis Soyer.   One more recipe, this time a modern one.  It is from the blog "Adventures in thyme and plaice."  The author quite likes the taste of toast water!  I may try it, although I think I shall use a pyrex measuring cup like the one below, not my 19th century toast water jugs.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I owned a jug printed with this pattern in the early '90s.  I thought it was amusing.  Now, I wish owned the machine that grinds old women into young!

Mug "Good lack how wonderful to view it/I neer believd it till I knew it/Come here ye toothlefs lame & Gray/Come and be Ground without delay"
The pattern was copied from a print by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), the English caricaturist famous for his illustrations of "Doctor Syntax,"  "The Bottle," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin." (All of these illustrations, by the way, are found on pottery.)

George Cruikshank "The Wonderful Mill" circa 1805 (when he was about 13)

"The Wonderful Mill" was quite popular on pottery.   The pattern is basically the same, but in a few examples there are young men greeting the rejuvenated women.

Mug, "Good lack a day cries out the grinder/I shan't find work, indeed I find sir/This grinding is a bonny trade/my fortune shortly will be made."

"Old Women Ground Young" Jug, same verse as above, but the print is a bit different

A slightly different print of "Old Women Ground Young"/No text

My birthday three years ago/My wish didn't change anything! I continue to grow old.  But, as my father used to say, "it is better than the alternative!"

For more information about "The Wonderful Mill," see the blog post "The Wonderful Mill in full vigour" in the blog The Printshop Window - Caricature & Graphic Satire in the Long Eighteenth-Century.