Spatter ware and sponge ware are some terms in pottery that are often linked or supposed to be the same. Are they the same or not?
Spattered pottery originated in Staffordshire, England at about 1750. Back then, they called it sponge ware. And it was really very common to use sponges.
During the 19th century, English sponge creations was more popular than ever and it began to be manufactured by Wedgwood for the American market and to be exported. Upon arriving in America, it became popular due to the technique with which it was decorated – which was called spattering. Thus, it became popularly known as spatter ware. From this, it appears that spatter ware and sponge ware are the same and that they just came to be known by different names. But the distinction does not lie there solely.
Spattering was a name given to the process of applying colorful designs to wares before they were glazed and fired. Often, the process of decorating was done using a small sponge. But it wasn’t done with a sponge in all cases. The reason why spatter ware is often called sponge ware is because spattering (the procedure of carefully hand-painting dots on the pottery) creates an effect very similar to the effect made by actually using sponge. Therefore, when speaking of spatter or sponge ware, one may call either of the two names while referring to a single decoration effect. The difference lies in the actual way by which a piece of pottery is decorated. And due to the fact that the making of spattered pottery requires much more labor, it also calls for a higher price compared to sponge ware.
Spatter ware/sponge ware can commonly be seen with spattered designs on the edges and with motifs painted on the center. There are different varieties identifiable by their motifs. Sponge Blue Spatter or Blue Sponge wares have spattering but do not have central painted motifs. Sponge Spatter or Stick-Sponge Spatter wares were decorated using shaped sponges that were used to make six-pointed rosettes, vines and wavy lines. Virginia wares tended to be overcrowded flowers spattered on the edges, a central figure or model and rosettes between the figure and the margin designs.
So, is spatter ware the same as sponge ware? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because if you go to America to shop for pottery, the more recognizable term will be spatter ware; however, if you go to England to shop, you might as well say you’re looking for sponge ware and you’ll get the same thing. The answer is no also, because if you will be talking about how a piece of pottery is made, you might want to use the right terms to make sure you’re clear.