Joseph Palin Thorley was born in Staffordshire in 1892. He apprenticed at Wedgwood and designed for several major commercial potteries before becoming involved with Colonial Williamsburg. The earlier phase of his career was published in the 2005 issue of Ceramics in America. In Williamsburg not only did he design the wares, as he had done before, but he took on the time-consuming task of producing them as well, a distraction that increasingly interfered with his ability to create new forms, his forte.
The transition from the larger potteries to Williamsburg took many years. Thorley began designing for Colonial Williamsburg in 1937, when he was still living and working in East Liverpool, Ohio. He did not move to the city of Williamsburg until 1949, and even then he continued to design for at least one other pottery, Hall China Company in East Liverpool, until about 1959.
In 1937 a friend suggested that Thorley visit the newly created Colonial Williamsburg and arranged for him to meet with several important people in town, among them the president of the College of William and Mary and the president and several vice presidents of Colonial Williamsburg. When he was shown some archaeological fragments of a silver luster jug that had been excavated in the historic area, Thorley boasted, "Oh, I can reproduce that”—which, of course, he could—and thus began a new epi-sode in his life.
In 1941 Thorley was made a licensed manufacturer for Colonial Williams-burg's Craft House, which oversees the sale of reproductions of antique objects in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg, although it was de-signed to be educational as well as a moneymaking outlet. The objects sold at the Craft House were produced by licensed manufacturers who were not employees of Williamsburg and who sold their products to many other outlets as well. The objects were selected, and finished samples approved, by the Craft Advisory Committee (now the Product Review Board), which is made up of employees from different facets of the foundation—curators, architects, archaeologists, and business administrators. The committee was concerned only with those products sold at the Craft House. Other Williamsburg outlets, such as the craft shops in the historic area and the gift shops in the Williamsburg hotels, were separate responsibilities. Thorley remained a licensed manufacturer until the fall of 1956, when his license was terminated. The termination probably was the result of his inability to keep up with orders, although he also had a reputation for being difficult to work with and unrealistic in his demands.
In 1946 Thorley purchased the Van Rensselaer Museum building on Jamestown Road, which at one time had exhibited a collection of antique firearms. His move to the area was supported by the administrators of Colonial Williamsburg, who provided a loan for the down payment. Thorley enlarged the building and converted it to a studio, where he designed and made his pottery. He continued to produce items in Ohio until 1949, when he opened the studio, but in the interim he was in Williamsburg frequently enough to rent at nearby Ludwell Apartments.
The central, projected area of the studio building is where Thorley's wife, Edith, managed a small gift shop, selling wares her husband made in Williamsburg as well as those designed by him and produced by other potteries. Behind the shop was Thorley's studio, office, and storage areas, as well as the couple's living quarters. As they planned to buy or build a large house similar to the one they had left in Ohio, their residence in the museum building was intended to be temporary. Nevertheless, Thorley referred to the building as "White Hall” (or "Whitehall” or "WhiteHall” ), though the name never appeared on the several signs that hung in front. It now is home to the White Hall Restaurant, which has many of Thorley's ceramic objects and molds on display.
An undated but post-1950 inventory in the Thorley Papers lists more than six thousand pieces of ceramic in clay, biscuit, or finished state. The inventory includes:
|Kilns, #4906 Denver|
|High temp—with Carborundum|
|filling & kiln furniture||10,000|
|Kiln #403 Denver||1,000|
|Machines Mills, etc|
|5 motor grinding wheels||500|
|2 jigger and Jolleys complete||1,500|
|mill one de-airing Pug||1,200|
|8 lining wheels||400|
|Molds & casting bench||250|
|Slip clay mixer & equipment||1,000|
Thorley had long since become an American citizen, but his love for England and the royal family was steadfast. One of the highlights of his life occurred in 1946, when Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visited Williams-burg and bought Craft House reproductions to take home as gifts, among them Thorley's heart-shaped inkwell and the jardiniere, or "square brick.” Thorley wrote his friend Joseph Thompson at Hall China Company, "We had a very wonderful week with Her Majesty the Queen Mother here. Her Majesty purchased some of my productions and made a few highly complimentary comments. I am going to name these items ‘A Queen's Choice.'” Among the Thorley Papers are clippings about the queen mo-ther's purchases of his objects in newspapers from Ohio, Virginia, and Staffordshire, England. All the articles repeat the popular but erroneous story that twenty years earlier Queen Mary had placed an order for Thorley's Chatelaine figure (see Austin, "Thorley, Part 1,” fig. 28).
Colonial Williamsburg Craft House Products
Although Thorley made other objects for Colonial Williamsburg, only five of his forms are illustrated in the Craft House catalogs. The 1942 catalog illustrated only the luster jug, and only in the largest size. Included on the war years price list (1942-1945) but not shown in the catalog were jugs (in the two larger sizes), the jardiniere, and a "Lambeth Delft Plate (blue and white). . . .”  The posy holder was added to the 1949 catalog, and in 1951, the inkstand. The catalog illustrated in figure 12 is undated but probably was first printed in 1953 or 1954 and included just two sizes of jugs (largest and middle) plus the leaf-shaped sweetmeat dish. The price lists for the spring and fall of 1955 and the spring of 1956 accompanied the same catalog; on the 1956 list, however, the jardiniere was listed as "Not available.” A new catalog, published later in 1956, offered no Thorley ware (by then the Craft House had severed relations with the potter), although it did include a posy holder and a jardiniere similar to his but manufactured by other potteries. Thorley had been working on new forms for the Craft House, but none was submitted to the Craft Advisory Committee after the sweetmeat dish.
The silver luster jugs Thorley produced for Colonial Williamsburg differ from his other Craft House reproductions in two ways. First, he did not initially create the form—called a Thorley Jug—for Colonial Williamsburg. It was already in production by Hall China Company with simple gold asterisk-like decoration. Second, it was not based on an antique ex-ample in the collections of Colonel Williamsburg but rather on archaeological fragments excavated in the historic city. Perhaps Thorley had trouble producing the smallest jug, for apparently it was not offered for sale after 1945.
In the late 1950s and 1960s Thorley often used the Thorley Jug form for special-order or commemorative pieces and typically marked them with his name, either stamped or handwritten. Inscriptions on the bottom are rarer than those on the side. On examples with the Craft House silver luster decoration, one of the rosettes was replaced by the inscription. The date on the jug does not necessarily indicate the date the piece was made or decorated. For example, on a set of three made for the Hunt family of Richmond and dated, respectively, 1957, 1960, and 1961, the first was made in 1961 but commemorates a wedding that took place in 1957; the second was made in 1961 and commemorates the birth of the first son, in 1960; and the third, made in 1962 and utilizing a bird motif rather than the Craft House design, commemorates the birth of the second son, in 1961, and is known through family pictures of the three. A thank-you note that was written in January 1961 after the receipt of the first two is in the Thorley Papers.
Jardinieres (Square Bricks)
The jardiniere, often referred to as a "square brick” because of its similarity to the more common brick-shaped flower containers, is, with its flat sides, a perfect form on which to apply decoration. Using the reproduction's mold, Thorley created a myriad of designs. He drew or painted many of his ideas first on paper and, if satisfied, applied them to the undecorated ware.
Even though these brick-shaped containers are sometimes confused with inkwells, it is generally believed that vessels of this form were used as flower containers in the middle of the eighteenth century. Colonial Williamsburg has a large collection of antique examples, two of which Thorley borrowed to reproduce. Even though there is no evidence that he ever produced any for the Craft House, he did make bricks in two sizes that in shape were somewhat related to the ones he borrowed but not in the decoration. As many drawings for bricks with eighteenth-century-style decoration have been found among Thorley's papers, it is likely that he had intended to produce examples relating to the originals. His surviving examples tend to have experimental glazes or are decorated with decals more reminiscent of eighteenth- or nineteenth-century porcelain.
Thorley was the first in the twentieth century to reproduce the five-finger vase, or posy holder, popular in the fourth quarter of the eighteenth century. His 1946 reproduction of a creamware example in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg was so successful that he was unable to keep up with the orders from the Craft House, let alone the many requests from gift shops and department stores throughout the country. Colonial Williamsburg flower arrangements, as published by Louise B. Fisher in her books on the subject, became the way to do colonial bouquets, and the posy holder became, to many, synonymous with Colonial Williamsburg and its potter.
The eighteenth-century examples made in Leeds and Staffordshire in England were of the warm creamy color of the reproduction and left without surface decoration. Late in the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century bright enamel colors were added to variations of the form that relate to those illustrated in figures 42 and 43. Luster-decorated Thorley examples can be seen in figures 81 and 86.
Thorley continued to produce this vase after he and the Craft House parted ways, the only change being to remove Colonial Williamsburg's icon from the mark. Colonial Williamsburg, however, retained Wedgwood to make the identical form to sell at the Craft House, which infuriated Thorley, who believed this created confusion about the maker and resulted in Wedgwood receiving credit for better-quality examples that he himself had made.
The five-finger vase remained a popular form for the rest of the century, made in Europe and the Orient as well as by Thorley, who produced at least three versions of it.
Leaf-shaped Sweetmeat Dishes
The leaf dish was the last Thorley form added to the Craft House catalog. It is shown in the undated edition (see fig. 12), which probably was first printed in 1953 or 1954, and appears in price lists through the spring of 1956.
The original, eighteenth-century sweetmeat dish from which this was reproduced was in Thorley's own collection. Objects sold at the Craft House either had to be in Colonial Williamsburg's collection of antiques or based on archaeological sherds found in the historic city, however, so in 1952 Thorley presented the leaf dish as a gift to Colonial Williamsburg. After he stopped providing ceramics to the Craft House, the dish was returned to him and remained in his home until shortly before his death.
The three other leaf-shaped sweetmeat dishes produced by Thorley are eighteenth-century in style but probably were his original designs. Un-marked examples or those marked with handwriting could have been made anytime after he came to Williamsburg (1949), but the four illustrated in figures 44-47 bear his printed mark and therefore have to postdate 1955.
Inkstands with inkwells and cover were reproduced from a French faience example in Colonial Williamsburg's antique collection (see, for example, fig. 48). Because of the similarities of French faience and English delft—both are technically of the same material, an opaque glaze made of tin and lead oxides over a rough earthenware body—it is sometimes difficult to differentiate the wares made in England from those made in other northern European countries.
In slip casting, a liquid clay with the consistency of heavy cream (called slip) is poured into a plaster of paris mold (see figs. 1, 50, 75). The plaster of paris draws out the water, leaving the clay along the sides. When enough clay is collected, the excess slip is poured out and the remaining clay is left to dry. Once the object is removed, the mold is allowed to dry thoroughly so can be used to form another object.
Thorley discontinued making the reproduction inkstands, which first appeared in 1951, after he and the Craft House parted ways. He experimented with another French heart-shaped inkwell design based on a blue-and-white example made at Marseilles and in Colonial Williamsburg's collection, but it is doubtful that it was produced.
Delft is a term used to describe ware with a generally white opaque glaze applied to hide a crude gray or red earthenware body. In Spain and Italy it is generally referred to as majolica; in France, faience; in Holland, delft; and in England, delft, delftware, or tin-glazed earthenware. Some of the pieces produced by Thorley in Williamsburg—jardinieres, flower bricks, ointment pots, and tiles—are reproductions of English delft. The eighteenth-century inkstand was made in France and therefore, though technically the same as delft, is generally referred to as faience. In a letter to the author dated 1985 Thorley claimed that he was the first person in America to produce delft, although in actuality it was a whiteware with the appearance of eighteenth-century delft.
In the early 1940s Thorley discussed the possibility of producing tiles for the Craft House and development commenced. Thorley wanted to produce reproductions only, but the Craft House managers thought that would be too costly and asked him to do less-expensive, mass-produced "souvenirs.” Thorley believed this would lower the quality of their other products. A compromise was reached and Thorley began developing line drawings of some of Williamsburg's buildings that were to be copperplate printed in the style of eighteenth-century English tiles. Correspondence shows that his drawings of Bruton Parish Church and the Capitol were returned to him for corrections to the architectural details. Other proposed drawings include depictions of the Wren building and the St. George Tucker House. A drawing of Williamsburg's Colonial Court House of 1770, sized correctly for a tile, has been discovered in the Thorley Papers.
Ointment pots (figs. 57-59) varying in size and generally undecorated were used by apothecaries in the eighteenth century, who typically would fill the pot with an ointment or medication, then cover it with parchment, which was held with a string, and give it to the patient. Often, when the pot was empty, it would be used for some other purpose in the household.
Beginning in 1954, Thorley produced pots for the Crafts Shop department of Colonial Williamsburg. The restored Galt Apothecary Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street sold reproductions of delft ointment pots—vessels that would have been used there in the eighteenth century. Many examples were sold containing a soap ball.
Although the Craft House had severed relations with Thorley in 1956, Williamsburg's Crafts Shop department was considered its own entity and therefore might have continued to receive ointment pots from Thorley. According to Thorley, he had a huge shipment ready to be delivered, but the order was canceled, leaving him with hundreds of ointment pots. These he used for experimenting with reglazing and decorating to give as small gifts. When he moved to a retirement home in 1986, at least thirty boxes of these color-ful jars were found.
Plates with Unfired Decoration
Forty-seven plates with unfired decoration were discovered in Thorley's shop by David Tetrault. They were wrapped, as a few of them still are, in what appear to have been local newspapers dated March and April 1952. All but three of the plates are 10 1/2 inches in diameter and painted on unmarked blanks; the remaining three are 8 inches in diameter and bear the mark of the Edward M. Knowles China Company. The mark includes "51-2,” indicating the blank plates were made in 1951 or 1952. The fact that some of the plates were made at Knowles is not unusual, as Thorley used china blanks from wherever he could get them most easily and least expensively. With this evidence, it appears that Thorley decorated the plates and wrapped them in 1951 and/or 1952, shortly after he had moved to Williamsburg and when he was so busy that he was unable to fill the orders from the Craft House and other customers. Although many of the plates are decorated with exotic flowers, others illustrate scenes, figures, and geometric designs, among other motifs. The original drawings for some of the designs were found among Thorley's papers; some are attached to the unfinished plates. It is impossible, at this time, to determine whether this series of plates was intended for a special order from a large factory or whether Thorley planned to produce them himself.
Thorley was primarily a designer and potter of useful wares—tea and dinner services and vases. The few figures he created were probably done for his own pleasure. How many he made is unknown, but in addition to the ones illustrated here (figs. 64-66) and the chatelaine discussed previously (Austin, "Thorley, Part 1,” figs. 28, 30), there are illustrations in the Thorley Papers of an elongated Chinese sage that Thorley might have created, as well as a seated cherub, which was sold at Christie's, New York (June 12, 1987, lot 42), and is said to bear Thorley's incised signature.
Thorley clearly was fond of the female form, as his papers contain many sketches—some elaborate, some just a few lines—of women, some classically drawn, while others (fig. 66) were created with the free-flowing lines of art nouveau.
Later Experimental Pieces
Among the several thousand pieces of ceramic found in Thorley's studio, by far the majority were molded by him. He decorated many of these, but others were unglazed and/or undecorated. (Thorley sometimes found it prudent, when experimenting, to buy blanks from other potteries and use those as a surface to work on, like the plates with unglazed decoration; see figs. 60, 62, 63). A small group of items was made entirely by other hands, perhaps gifts from friends or purchases for study. In addition, unfortunately, there are a few pieces in which Thorley's involvement cannot be determined.
The objects illustrated in figures 74 and 75—on which gold is applied to a green ground—are slightly matte in texture, which makes them quite different from the other Thorley pieces in metallic colors, and the luster is very shiny. The designs are Japanese as well as geometric.
Thorley's papers indicate that in 1967 he was working on "opalescent glazes,” and in February 1968 he shows tests for a crystalline glaze. These glazes were very popular in the first decades of the twentieth century, when Thorley was learning the art of ceramics. In his youth he had been fascinated with art nouveau, a style he had never gotten out of his system. Going through the sketches among his papers, it is, in many cases, impossible to ascertain whether his drawings were done in the 1920s or the 1960s. Thorley's interest in resurrecting crystalline glazes coincided with the art world's new appreciation of its beauty.
Palin Thorley was very proud of the luster glazes he produced in Williamsburg, and he used them in large quantities, both during and after his association with the Craft House. He produced copper luster, which had been very popular in the nineteenth century (fig. 81); pink luster, apparently his most favored (figs. 82-84), and silver luster on both white and yellow grounds (figs. 86-91). Yellow ground, often referred to as "canary,” was commonly used at the end of the eighteenth century, and when lustrous glazes came into vogue in the nineteenth century, embellishing the yellow ground with silver luster was a natural progression. Thorley chose to apply the yellow over a solid silver ground (figs. 86, 89; see figs. 23, 24). The yellows of his pieces are often more of a muddy shade than the pure yellow of the earlier era.
Thorley was pleased that he was responsible for the increase in the popularity of luster in 1925 while at Allerton's in Staffordshire. This prompted the continuation of its manufacture from perhaps the eighteenth century, as he claimed, but certainly from the early nineteenth century. In an interview he tells this story:
I came to America in 1927 and in 30s I'm in, of all places, . . . Richmond. I'm walking down the street with a friend and I look in an antique shop window and there on the table is a very nice service of this luster ware was made by me at Allerton's. So I turned to my friend and said, "Harry, that's one of my pieces.” "Oh,” said he. . . . "It is, Harry. Let's go in and find out, have some fun.” I went into the store and I walked all around and I looked at tables and chairs and so on, but finally I got round to this table where the luster set was. I asked the gentleman in attendance about it and he told me it was very rare to find such a complete set. One of the old families in Virginia had passed away and had a liquidation of their home and this had been found in an old cupboard . . . such a lovely story and told me it [was] discovered by these people who purchased the home and the rest of it . . . nice story. Well, I turned the plate up [and] pointed . . . there was no [factory] mark on the back, but there was impressed a pair of figures impressed in the clay. Now I rubbed my finger over it and said, "You see this? This particular plate was made by me at Allerton's in 1924. That's the mark,” and I described it to this gentleman in detail. So he finally laughed and he said, "Well, strange stories do gather around with most ceramic pieces, don't they?” I said, "They certainly do.” We both had a good laugh. . . . So there it traced me through to Richmond. Now [several years] later, . . . in 1949, I established my pottery here in Williamsburg, Virginia, the great revival of eighteenth-century ceramics . . . wonderful, wonderful. So obviously here was a place where I should start to make this pink luster, there's lots [of examples] of it all around here in the homes. . . . So I then started to make it here and I've been making here ever since and still make it despite the fact that . . . for various reasons I haven't done so much lately, I still produce it here on James-town Road in Williamsburg and it was started by Mrs. Woolley, as I already mentioned, at Allerton's. So what I'm doing here is continuity, it's the unbroken line of eighteenth-century luster made in all respects identically . . . no modern changes in it whatsoever. That's why I get such a good [product] . . . which is just like the original. There's no difference except in the time it was done—one was done in 1830 and mine was done round about 1950 or later.
Copies, Fakes, or Reproductions
Thorley never mentioned to me that he had siblings. In one of the taped interviews he did with Christine Sheridan, he does refer to a brother but only once, and as a child and not by name, so it was a surprise to learn after Thorley's death that two brothers and two sisters survived him. A letter received from the granddaughter of his brother John states that his brother Noel was also a pottery manufacturer and that his other brother, John, was a ceramic litho printer.
When it was revealed a few years ago that Noel Thorley had been in-volved with the manufacture of Wedgwood-style jasper and basalt wares being sold as eighteenth-century wares, several people asked me if Palin could have made fakes. My answer then, as it is now, was no. Palin Thorley was too proud of his abilities to want to sell what he made as the work of another.
This is not to say, however, that he did not enjoy fooling people. In this series about him I have mentioned three instances in which his work was believed to be of earlier manufacture than it was and the amusement he derived from the error. He also often told me a story involving a friend in Pittsburgh who had an important collection of Chinese porcelain. Thorley copied one of his friend's blanc de chine pieces and secretly replaced the original with his copy, solely to trick his friend. His delight was not in fraud, but in revealing his expertise—especially to so-called experts.
In one of his taped interviews Thorley mentions that when he was at New Chelsea he produced ware decorated with the "Swansea rose” design, which had been popular with several British potteries in the nineteenth century. He sold these pieces as new, but was aware that it was likely, as he had not marked them, for them to be mistakenly dated a hundred years earlier.
He was also aware that the Greek-style vases—red figures on basalt—that he made for Wedgwood in the 1910s were being sold as eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century pieces. Thorley had one in the corner cupboard in his living room. He was very proud of it and had me handle it several times. (On one of my last visits I noticed that the vase was gone, as were several other objects, among two in the form of Wedgwood basalt Grecian oil vessels that had been on his mantelpiece. Thorley had told me they were fakes, but would say nothing more about them.)
On the subject of fakes, I have to mention the mid-eighteenth-century Staffordshire figures usually referred to as "Astbury figures” that were copied in the second decade of the twentieth century by a potter named Fell. Thorley saw them being made when he was an apprentice at Wedgwood, and he was aware that they were being sold as eighteenth-century pieces even though they occasionally appeared with Fell's name on them. Thorley was not particularly bothered, however. He was always of the opinion that too much emphasis was placed on the date and provenance of an object, and that its true and sole value lay in its beauty, quality, and the enjoyment it gave.
Exactly when Thorley stopped producing, I cannot say. From his records it does not appear that much was being produced in the mid-1960s, when we first met. By the early 1970s he had written to former contacts to say he was producing, which brought in new orders. There is nothing to indicate that those orders were ever filled, however, and letters—much like the ones he received during his entire tenure with Colonial Williamsburg—claimed that the objects had not been delivered. In 1976 he said that he was "costing” the production of the posy holder, and even as late as 1980 he wrote, "I am engaged in organizing production Kilns, etc. to counteract present day inflationary costs in production.”
During the many evenings I spent with Thorley, we typically would sit in his parlor, sometimes with a glass of port, and "talk pots.” In spite of pointed hints from me, he rarely took me into his studio, so what he was producing, if anything, is uncertain. Among his papers are unsigned contracts with firms he was to do business with and potteries that wanted to buy him out and work with him. With his determined mind and artist's heart, Thorley never said quits. How many times did I hear him say, "John, I am going to fire up the old kiln” —pronouncing kiln with the final letter silent, of course, the way potters did and the preferred way in the dictionaries of his era—but it was not to be. He eventually had to turn over his affairs and care to a loyal friend, Charles Crone, and in 1987 Joseph Palin Thorley, a superior artist, great intellect, fascinating character, and good friend, passed away.
Making the Red for Pottery Decoration
In her taped interviews with Palin Thorley, Christine Sheridan recorded the following story about Thorley's father teaching him and his brother how to prepare the red color used for decorating pottery.
Yes, . . . I remember it full well. My brother and I were then about, say, about six or seven years of age, certainly not more than seven or eight years of age. When my father [wanted to] keep us quiet at home [he] taught us how to make colors, to make pottery colors, like his daddy used to make at Ridgway, he said. So to educate us we went to the drugstore—we call it here the chemist shop—and we bought two or three pennies' worth of iron sulfate crystals. . . . So [when] my young kid brother and I get home, father takes the shovel that we used to shovel the coal into the fireplace with—in England, you know, we have a kitchen fire in which they cook, [and] there's a little shovel there [for shoveling] coal onto the fire as required. Well, the first thing father did was to get this shovel and wipe it off with a clean rag, then we took the blow bellows, which also hung by the side of the fire in those days, and we blew the fire until all the coals were bright red and clear and hot. Then way back right under the chimney so the fumes went up . . . the flue of the chimney, we put [the] iron sulfate [crystals] on the shovel. They start to smell and smoke up the chimney and we watch it and turned it and father showed how to do it. The color changed remarkably from a green substance to white, then it began to change color and we let it go until it was almost a dark purple. Then father took that off and showed us that was wrong—you see, it's gone purple. That's because we overfired it. It had too much heat. Now we will do it again and we'll watch it and stop it earlier when it gets to a good red color. Well, with brother and I watching, you know, standing there holding it, quite excited seeing these colors change and we watched it. At last it came off. Then father scraped it, showed us how to scrape that onto a tile . . . a glass slab the tile was . . . and he gave us a muddler, a flat-headed muddler. We ground it. Crushed and ground and we ground all day, kept us quiet. . . . Each one in turn until our fingers got tired. But it finally passed father's supervision and then we washed it. Father told us how important that was. We washed it in hot water, stirring it, then we would let it settle in the bowl, then we poured off the water and decanted it, the water off. There at the bottom, finally, we had this bright red powder, which of course was red-eye and oxide . . . father described to us the difference between the red oxide and the crystals of sulfate, what iron really was, because brother and I didn't know of it. Having little lessons in chemistry we didn't know that, but we did see changes took place under heat, which was another lesson. Then father said, "Now we have to make a flux.” Here is a good flux we read here in your grandfather's receipt book, there written in lead pencil was the flux he used for iron reds. So we weighed that again and put it in the muddler, we ground it with a pestle and mortar and we put that in the kiln again in the hot heat with the blow bellows going and melted that and that was our glass frit. It came out like glass because brother and I were interested in that. Now we examined this, now we don't have those other materials, the lead, the borax, the flint, and so on. We've got glass options. We have to crunch that up with a hammer and wash that again and then grind it. Grinding was a tedious job. Pounding it and pounding it and grind[ing] it. When it [is ground] fine enough, we weighed them out in different proportions—so much flux, so much red, so much flux—and then ground them separately. Then father brought some plates from of one his friend's factories. My brother and I sat down with a plate each with a little decorative start at one end, one side of the plate, which we would have to repeat all the way around. Father did the little decoration on the side and we repeated all around the plate edge, we made a pattern. Then we took them down to my father's friend, William Wardle, who owned the Worlock Pottery Company in Shelton. To the best of my knowledge, Worlock Pottery may be still there, but of course, Billy Wardle isn't. Brother and I would walk this mile or two to the factory and we took down these plates we painted and Mr. Wardle would put them through his kiln and fire. Then we came back with some plates with a different tones of red all painted out. And they [were] all pretty good. I kept those plates for years. But that's how we learned to make colors. That was just the beginning, eye-red. Oh, the trouble came after my brother and I got to trying other things . . . it was alright to make the reds, of course, but my mother found out that the shovels were not lasting very long. . . . When we kept heating all kinds of oxides on the shovels, very soon [there was] a very, very big hole in the middle of the shovel. And it was some time before mother discovered the wastes in shovels was tied to the amusement of kids in making colors. So color making was off from then on. We were not permitted to run into the danger of getting burned, but when father was teaching us to make these colors, it did keep us quiet for days on end. The whole place was full of pieces of pottery we painted with these colors. But in the first attempts, of course, the colors weren't put on very well. As my brother and I did more and more there came a time when we put it on with some decency and some of the red-painted plates looked pretty good after a few weeks' struggling. But that was one way which to learn how to do something in the potters' craft. He starts at six or seven years of age. When I got to Wedgwood when I was fourteen [and] the people showed me how to do this, I [had] already done it and they couldn't understand that, and they thought it was instinct. It wasn't. It was because we had been around the kitchen fireplace on Sunday afternoons making color. That's all the story on coloring making, that's how I started to make it.
Watching Mocha Ware Being Made
In her taped interviews with Palin Thorley, Christine Sheridan asked him to share his memories of mocha ware.
Were they . . . little trees that grew up the side of the slipped ware and spread out like ferns beautifully? Oh yes, I remember . . . there's a place in a very old part of the town, I forget the name, it was off of Hope Street, a side street. There are some very ancient old houses there . . . houses built for workmen in the late eighteenth century. They are in very bad state of repair, but as you walked along the street from school [there was] this little window, very small, little window [that you could look] through . . . into a basement under this house. You know, I would peek through the window because the window was on the level with the street pavement. It wasn't above the wall it was level with the street as you walked. And boylike I crawled on my hands and knees and peered through the window and in that room was a group of potters and women working making mocha ware—making ware, I didn't see much what it was, I just saw them doing it. There were a couple of men throwing and then two or three working on lathes, and women were treadling the lathes. All that makes me smile when I come to think of treadling the lathes. I [haven't] seen that for years. The old-fashioned eighteenth-century lathe wasn't worked with a motor, you know. They had no steam engines or motors in those days. They worked with a treadle. The treadle was on the floor just in front of the lathe and it . . . was a flat piece of wood and the woman put her foot on it, on the spring, [and as] she pressed the treadle up and down and up and down, the cable would work the wheels. If the turner wanted his lathe to go very fast he would give the signal and she would pedal with her right leg on this pedal rapidly or slowly as he required her. It would have to [be in] perfect harmony between them because when he was turning on his lathe he would increase the speed or slow it and she could do it perfectly. But I often wondered, if a young woman did that for many years, I bet her right leg was twice as big as her left leg, I used to say. Of course, in those days you couldn't see. They didn't wear short skirts. She would have quite the job if she's living these days, because she would have one leg with big muscles and the other leg very thin and scare-crowy, which would have looked odd. Oh, when I look back, I would smile at those . . . old ladies. Wedgwood still had one when I was a boy there. The old treadle lathe, it was eighteenth century, so I peer through the window, then I saw the man at the lathe drop a little can . . . drop some spots on it out of the can and I watched what they were doing. Well, I couldn't figure it out and I was curious. . . . In the coldest dark, thick with clay, very grimy, very dirty the shop was. I don't think they cleaned the clay fragments off the floor in years. All the people, poor people coming there making these pots. I was watching. Well, a woman came in and walked up and there was a box, kind of a square box in the corner of this room, and to my great amazement she lifted up her dress and sat on the box—well, kind of squatted over it. She didn't sit on it 'cause the box had narrow sides, just an ordinary box. I said, "Oh good gracious! My, my” . . . at this thing. Then . . . watching again another day a man comes up, he did something in the box and they weren't paying attention to him and I kept looking, [wondering what was] going on. Then the man would sit there and they all were chewing tobacco, their mouths—you'd see the jaw pulled out here while they worked—and they walked to the box and spit in it. So the tobacco piece went in. And this went on every time I peeked. Every time I came home from school, I peered through the window on my hands and knees. Grimy window—never been cleaned in years . . . you had to put your nose close to the panes to see through it. I'd get closer, closer up to it; what are they doing in the box is a mystery. One day I went home and I saw something that was rather shocking and I told my father, "Oh that place down there off Hope Street, with the shop underneath, they're doing this and the other,” and he started to laugh. "Oh, they're making mocha ware.” What they do, he said, they save urine until it ferments and gets very smelly and very unpleasant. Then they put tobacco, thick chewing tobacco when it's stirred up, then put some manganese, some iron in it, and stir that up. And that's the stuff they splatter on the ware. When the ware is wet on the lathe and dampened with a sponge, well a drop of it, it runs like a little street that makes the tree trunk, then it spreads out, just like a million branches of trees and looks very nice on jugs and beer mugs, but on nothing else. They don't use it much on plates. They just make jugs, mugs, bottles, and beer mugs. That's called mocha ware.
[When asked if he ever made mocha, Thorley claimed he never had. "Somehow it left me with a feeling of . . . I didn't feel for mocha ware.”]
Mold, bisque mug, and finished mug, 1950–1970. Plaster of paris and whiteware. H. of bisque mug 4 3/4"; H. of finished 4 1/2". (Courtesy, White Hall Restaurant Collection; unless otherwise noted, all photos by Gavin Ashworth.)
It cannot be determined whether this mug, with its pure cylindrical form and loop handle, is copied from an eighteenth-century piece. There is no mug at Williamsburg of this exact form and size, nor is there any record of Thorley borrowing one to copy. It is most likely that Thorley designed this form based on his knowledge of eighteenth-century shapes and proportions. An eighteenth-century vessel of this shape would not have been cast in a mold, as this was, but rather thrown on a wheel, the handle either shaped by hand or pressed in a small, separate mold and then attached. The decoration on this mug is reminiscent of the ware he designed or adapted while he was designer at Allerton Ltd., Longton, England, from about 1924 until 1927, when he immigrated to the United States. (See Austin, “Thorley, Part 1,” pp. 179–81, figs. 31–34.) Thorley used the pink luster again during his latter days of production.
Unless otherwise noted, the illustrated items in this article were made by Palin Thorley, Williamsburg, Virginia, and are in the author’s collection.
Secondary sign that hung outside Thorley’s studio-shop, 1950s–1970s. The primary, much more elaborate sign that hung near the road illustrated a potter at his wheel. (See Austin, “Thorley, Part 1,” fig. 1.)
White Hall, as it appeared in the British trade magazine Pottery and Glass, November 1950, with the caption: “Studio, laboratory and oYces at Williamsburg, Virginia USA, built 1945–1950 by Joseph Palin Thorley for research on commercial ceramics processes and the reproduction of wares of historic interest to Williamsburg, under special licence from the authorities.”
Palin Thorley standing beneath the sign that hung in front of White Hall until about 1956, when it was replaced with one illustrating a potter at his wheel.
Interior of Thorley’s studio, 1964 or 1965, showing barrels, probably filled with slip, and stacks of plaster of paris molds.
Gloss (glazing) kiln, 1970, with “square bricks” placed on a shelf inside.
Edith Thorley in her shop, 1964 or 1965, and the interior of the shop, probably 1960s. Both pictures show forms developed for the Craft House that Thorley continued to make, examples made or decorated by Thorley after he stopped producing for Colonial Williamsburg, and unidentified objects that perhaps were designed by him earlier and still in production by the East Liverpool (Ohio) factories.
Printed mark used by Thorley on wares produced for the Craft House, Colonial Williamsburg’s merchandise outlet, between 1941 and 1956. All of Thorley’s forms that he produced for the Craft House—whether sold through this outlet or directly to other customers—bear this mark. The oval emblem is based on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British shippers’ marks.
Rare variation of the Craft House/Thorley mark. This seems to appear only on the “GR” plate, which was produced between 1942 and 1945 (see fig. 52).
Thorley’s printed mark was registered in 1956. In the application he states that he used the mark as early as 1955; therefore, pieces with this mark must have been made between 1955 and the 1970s, when Thorley ceased producing. Objects with this mark and the oval Colonial Williamsburg mark are rare and were made in 1955 or 1956.
Examples of handwritten marks possibly used from 1949, when Thorley moved to Williamsburg, until the 1970s, when he stopped producing ceramics. His monogram, illustrated on the lower part with the red ground, is sometimes the only mark on a piece and dates the same as his full signature.
Page from Colonial Williamsburg’s Craft House Catalog, probably 1953 or 1954.
Silver resist jug, 1938–1956. Earthenware. H. 5 1/2". The dates indicate the year the piece was approved for reproduction and the last year it was produced for the Craft House. If a Thorley-made object bears the Williamsburg mark, it was made between those dates.
Posy holder. Earthenware. H. 8". Approved for reproduction in 1946, last produced for the Craft House in 1956.
Jardiniere. Earthenware. H. 4". Approved for reproduction in 1942; last produced for the Craft House in 1955.
Sweetmeat dish. Earthenware. L. 8". Approved for reproduction in 1952; last produced for the Craft House in 1956.
Inkstand. Earthenware. H. 4 1/2". Approved for reproduction in 1951; last produced for the Craft House in 1956.
Thorley Jugs, 1945–1956. Earthenware. Left to right: H. 3", 4 1/2", and 5 1/2". These jugs were produced for the Craft House, and all bear the stamped “CW” logo and Thorley’s name.
Silver luster jug and archaeological sherds from a similar, early-nineteenth-century jug excavated from the Donigan site, in Williamsburg (Windmill lot). Earthenware. H. of jug 5 1/2".
Thorley/Craft House mark on the jug illustrated in fig. 19. (Courtesy, Collins Collection.)
For comparison, the largest and the smallest of Hall China Co.’s Thorley Jugs. Earthenware H. 5 1/2", 3 1/4".
Thorley Jug, with tower decoration. Earthenware. H. 4 1/2". Thorley was producing objects for other outlets while he was making ware for the Craft House. A 1954 order from the Williamsburg Lodge gift shop included jugs in eight diVerent patterns, among them “Pink Luster tower pattern.” The motif on this unmarked pink luster jug was probably inspired by his work on eighteenth-century English delft.
Inscription on the bottom of the jug illustrated in fig. 24. The inscription is used infrequently; the numbers in blue suggest that the jug had been used earlier for experimental purposes.
Silver and yellow luster jug, ca. 1960. Earthenware. H. 3 1/4". (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) The bird pattern is not common for Thorley commemorative wares. This jug is one of two inscribed for the Buckmaster family.
Inscription on a silver luster jug. (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) Inscriptions typically were placed on the side, like the rosette on the jugs illustrated in figs. 18 and 19.
Jug, dated 1967. Whiteware. H. 3 1/4". (Courtesy, Clark Taggart Collection.) Probably decorated as a Christmas present and never sold or given, this small Thorley jug was in Thorley’s possession in 1986. The inscription, “xm/as/1967,” is written in Old English script, popular in the 1920s and 1930s but used by Thorley on many experimental pieces and also found in drawings among his papers.
Jardinieres, or square bricks, 1946–1970. Earthenware. H. of each 4". This stack of jardinieres shows the variety of colors and designs used by Thorley.
Jardiniere, 1942–1956. Whiteware. H. 4". This brick is a well-executed, finished example. It does not bear a mark, as most production pieces would, but “#1” appears on a paper label aYxed to the bottom. It is possible that this, like the five-finger posy holder illustrated in fig. 41, is the sample that was presented to and approved by the Craft Advisory Committee of the Craft House. If so, its date of manufacture would be 1942; if not, between 1942 and 1956.
Jardiniere, 1942–1970. Earthenware. H. 4". This example illustrates an undecorated surface to which decoration could be added.
Jardiniere, 1942–1970. Earthenware. H. 4". Even though the eighteenth-century example from which this was copied was decorated by hand, the basic design of a reproduction was silk-screened and applied in monochrome—here, in manganese purple—and the piece was fired. Were the decoration painted entirely by hand, it would be impossible to produce the quantity necessary and still have the decoration as close to the original as required.
Jardiniere, 1942–1956. Earthenware. H. 4". (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) The yellow and blue decoration was painted by hand and the piece refired. As this bears the printed Craft House mark illustrated in fig. 8, it can be dated between 1942 and 1956.
Jardiniere, after 1956. Earthenware. H. 4". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) This is a rare example of a reproduction made after 1956, when Thorley stopped producing for Colonial Williamsburg, as it bears Thorley’s printed mark, not the Colonial Williamsburg marks probably made shortly after that date.
Drawings for jardinieres. Watercolor on paper. 7" x 16".
Flower bricks. Whiteware. Rear: 1955–1970. Mottled glaze. L. 7 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Front: 1942–1970. Foliated decoration. L. 5". Mark written in black and experiment mark in white.
Flower brick and jug, 1955–1970. Earthenware. Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Brick: L. 7 1/8". Jug: H. 5 1/2". (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) Hand-painted with applied decal decoration.
Drawings for flower bricks in the style of the eighteenth century, ca. 1954. Watercolor on paper. L. of images approx. 7". Probably intended to be used to decorate examples sold by Colonial Williamsburg. In 1954 Thorley presented to the Craft Advisory Committee hand-painted designs “in the spirit of” eighteenth-century style and technique, to be used on jardinieres. Even though one design was approved, none appears to have been produced and presented to the committee for approval.
Palin Thorley’s most well-known reproduction was used to illustrate this advertisement for White Hall, the shop in Thorley’s pottery, which appeared in the 1959 Historic Virginia Week in Williamsburg catalog. At this time Thorley was still producing the form for his own sales; Wedgwood was producing it for Colonial Williamsburg.
An illustration showing a Palin Thorley posy holder in use, in Louise Bang Fisher, An Eighteenth-Century Garland: The Flower and Fruit Arrangements of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg, 1951), sixth page insert between pp. 26 and 27.
Shop sign design, 1956. Paint on paper. Approx. 18" x 24". (Swem Library, College of William and Mary.) In 1956 Thorley considered naming the shop for his wife, Edith, who managed it. He designed a sign incorporating the posy holder, which he eventually replaced with the “potter at his wheel” sign for which he is best known (see Austin, “Thorley, Part 1,” fig. 1).
Base of manufacturer’s model for the posy holder illustrated in fig. 41. Inscribed in pencil on the base: “This Sample Approved by Craft Advisory Committee on July 5, 1946. JAU.” The initials JAU refer to John (“Jack”) A. Upshir, who was in charge of the Craft House during Thorley’s tenure.
It was customary for the Craft House to require the licensed manufacturers to present to the Craft Advisory Committee two examples of each object to be produced. When a product was approved, one example remained with the committee and the other stayed with the manufacturer. This helped to ensure that the merchandise did not vary from the accepted model. Few of these accepted models have survived.
Posy holder, 1946. Creamware. H. 8". This is the original model produced by Thorley after an eighteenth-century example in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection. This was used as a guide by Thorley for the hundreds more he made during his productive life.
Posy holder model, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H. 7 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Fired once and never glazed, this vase is one half inch taller than it would have been had it been glazed and refired. This model is very much like colorful early-nineteenth-century examples. Although never produced for the Craft House, it might have been copied from a related antique example in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection. The Thorley Papers show that one was returned to Colonial Williamsburg in the 1950s.
Posy holder, 1950–1970. Creamware. H. 8". Mark: In script, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.” (Courtesy, Collins Collection.) A simplified version of the Colonial Williamsburg example, this is the third form of the five-finger vase produced by Thorley. It may have been inspired by or copied from an eighteenth-century example.
Leaf-shaped sweetmeat dish, 1956–1970. Creamware. L. 8". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). (Courtesy, Peter and Jean Brown Collection.)
Sycamore leaf dish, 1955–1970. Whiteware. L. 7". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10).
Ivy or vine leaf dish, 1955–1970. Whiteware. L. 6". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10).
Oak leaf dish, 1955–1970. Whiteware. L. 6". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10).
Inkstand, 1952. Whiteware. W. 4 1/2". (Courtesy, Moyles Collection.) Mark: Thorley Craft House (illustrated in fig. 8). Inscribed, on base: “Tom Moyles of Williamsburg 1952.” This example was made for Thomas Moyles, director of the Williamsburg Inn and a personal friend of Thorley. It is the earliest recorded Thorley presentation piece.
Mark and inscription on the underside of the inkstand illustrated in fig. 48.
A plaster of paris mold for slip casting a heart-shaped inkstand, 1951–1970. A once-fired but unglazed example showing its three parts, and a finished example, glazed and decorated in a non–eighteenth-century design.
Three delft-like fragments, ca. 1942. These fragments show a crude dark red earthenware body and are covered with an opaque glaze. Thorley experimented with reproducing delft for Colonial Williamsburg, using his extensive knowledge of eighteenth-century English pottery.
Plate, 1942–1945. Whiteware. D. 9". Mark: variation of the Colonial Williamsburg Craft House mark illustrated in fig. 8. (Courtesy, Colonial Williamsburg Collection.) This plate, reproduced from an eighteenth-century delft example, is listed in the Craft House price list only once (1942–1945) and does not appear in any of the catalogs. It is possible that it was produced for a very short time or that it was sold through other Colonial Williamsburg outlets; ointment pots such as the one illustrated in fig. 57, for example, were sold at the Galt Apothecary shop. The 1942–1945 price list for the Craft House catalog lists it as “Lambeth Delft Plate (blue & white)” with no mention of the “GR” cipher. The fragments illustrated in fig. 51 show related decoration, and the plates illustrated in figs. 54 and 55 are from the same mold. The original “GR” plate was made in England between 1714 and 1727 to honor King George I, who ruled Britain and the American colonies.
Detail of the mark on the underside of the plate illustrated in fig. 52. The significance of this rare version of the Craft House mark is unknown. It does not appear on the usual production.
Plate, 1942–1950. Whiteware. D. 9". Mark: experimental mark only. Thorley appears to have experimented on this plate using motifs usually found on eighteenth-century delft tiles.
“Merry Man” plate, 1943–1950. Whiteware. D. 9". Unmarked. The source for the inspiration for this plate is unknown, as it dates from the 1940s and Colonial Williamsburg did not acquire its set of Merry Man plates until 1962. The verse, one line of which is displayed on each of six plates, reads: “What is a Merry Man, / Let him do what he can, / To entertain his guests, / With wine and merry gests, / But if his wife do frown, / All Merryment goes down.” The rhyme is from the seventeenth century, although dated antique examples of this wreath version range from 1717 to 1745
Tiles, 1942–1955. Whiteware. 5" x 5". Marks: experimental marks only. Hand-painted scenes in the eighteenth-century delft manner.
Ointment pot, 1955–1965. Earthenware, with Thorley’s original glaze. H. 2 1/4". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). (Courtesy, Moyles Collection.)
Ointment pots, England,
eighteenth century. Tin-glazed earthenware. H. of center pot 2". These archaeological sherds, excavated in Williamsburg and loaned to Thorley in 1940 as examples of the opaque delft glaze, eventually became prototypes for his ointment pot. They were found in his studio in 1986 and subsequently returned to Colonial Williamsburg.
Ointment pots, 1954–1970. Whiteware. H. of pot 2 1/2". These pots were decorated by Thorley and used for experiments and gifts.
Plates with unfired decoration, 1951–1952. Whiteware. D. 10 1/2".
Drawings for the plates illustrated in fig. 60. Paint on paper.
Plates with unfired decoration, 1951–1952. Whiteware. D. 10 1/2".
Stack of plates with unfired decoration still wrapped in local newspapers dated March and April 1952.
Figure, 1955–1970. Whiteware. H. 11". Glazed but undecorated figure of a lady in eighteenth-century dress, Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). (Courtesy, Tetrault Collection.) The figure has separated from its base.
Figure, 1955–1970. Whiteware. H. 11". Unmarked. This is the same figure as that illustrated in fig. 64, but it is decorated in polychrome colors.
Unglazed figure of a reclining nude, 1930–1960. Earthenware. L. 10". Unmarked. (Courtesy, Tetrault Collection.)
Left to right: Bottle, thrown with sides pushed in, 1955–1970. Stone- or earthenware. H. 4". Unmarked. This piece probably was not made by Thorley and might not have been decorated by him.Vase, thrown, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H. 4 1/2". Marks: experimental. Probably not made by Thorley but perhaps decorated by him. Bottle, molded, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H. 4 3/4". Marks: experimental numbers and handwritten “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.” Vase, molded, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H. 7 1/2". Marks: experimental numbers and handwritten “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.”
Left to right: Vase, molded, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H: 4 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Bottle, molded, 1955–1970. Earthenware. H: 4 3/4". Marks: experiment numbers and handwritten “Palin Thorley.” Vase, thrown, 1955–1970. Stone- or earthenware. H. 7 1/4". Unmarked. The vase was probably not made by Thorley but was perhaps decorated by him. The same hands appear to have made and decorated both it and the vase illustrated in fig. 67, second from the left.
Vase, 1955–1970. H. 9". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). One of two vases, from the same mold, found at Thorley’s studio. They were fired twice and have a clear creamy ground. Thorley decorated both in black, with exotic birds, but they were not fired again. This example is in far better condition than the other, although it shows some loss due
Covered containers, 1950–1970. Whiteware. L. 7". Marks: the brown example is unmarked; the other two have experimental numerals only. The poor quality of the body of these covered containers suggests that they were not made by Thorley. They were, however, decorated by him. The two on the right show the influence of eighteenth-century ceramics, where a thick white enamel is placed over a pale-colored ground, often giving the appearance of damask—a technique known as bianco supra bianco.
Bowls, 1950–1970. Top: Stoneware or possibly porcelain. H. 2". Mark: in script on bottom, “3c5 Thorley.” Lower left: Whiteware. H. 1 1/2". Marks: experimental marks only. Lower right: Whiteware. H. 2". Mark: in script on bottom: “Palin Thorley.” Thorley must have acquired many small bowls, roughly the size of a modern teacup, on which to try his experiments. Although he may have molded some of the bowls, few are duplicates, and they range from what appears to be Chinese hard-paste porcelain to crude earthenware. No molds or unglazed examples have been found.
Vases. Left: 1955–1970. Earthenware. H. 7 3/4". Right: 1950–1970. Earthenware. H. 7 1/2". One might think that these unusual modern-shaped vases were not molded by Thorley were it not for the fact that the white example is still in biscuit and bears the Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10) while still in its green or unfired state.
The lustrous blue vase was a successful experiment in that its condition is good enough to have appeared in his shop. Only the series of numerals on the base explains that it was indeed experimental. His name, handwritten, also appears on the bottom.
Vases, 1950–1970. Whiteware. H. 4 1/4". Many of these globular vases were found in Thorley’s studio. Some—bearing printed or handwritten marks—were ready to be sold, whereas others were experimental pieces, showing only the numerals and letters of the formula he was trying. Also found was a master mold (a positive mold in plaster of paris that looks like a larger but solid version of the final piece) and an example that had been fired once, marked, and covered with a coat of glaze not yet fired.
Green and gold objects, 1950–1970. Earthenware. Marks: handwritten, in gold, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.” Vase: H. 4 1/4". Large bowl: H. 1 1/2", D. 7 1/2". Small bowls: H. 1 1/4", D. 5 1/2".
Candlestick, 1950–1970. Whiteware. H. 6". (Courtesy, White Hall Restaurant Collection.) Mark: handwritten, in gold, “Palin Thorley.” The candlestick is shown with a plaster of paris mold.
Bowl, 1950–1970. Whiteware. D. 9". Mark: handwritten “Palin Thorley/ Williamsburg / Virginia” and his monogram (see fig. 77). Thorley placed a very shiny ground color on both sides of this bowl, leaving a white reserve only on the interior bottom. The gold is quite lustrous and appears to have been burnished.
Mark and monogram on the underside of the bowl illustrated in fig. 76.
Vase, 1960–1970. Whiteware, with crystalline glaze. H. 9 3/4". Marks: experimental only. This tall vase might not have been made by Thorley, but it was decorated by him.
Vase, 1960–1970. Whiteware, with crystalline glaze. H. 5". Marks: experimental only. This vase might not have been made by Thorley but probably was decorated by him.
Plates, 1960–1970. Whiteware, with crystalline glaze. D. 6". Three examples from a large series of bread-and-butter plates from Thorley’s studio. All are bisque (that is, unglazed) on the reverse and bear the series number “rc-10,” with another number that diVers according to the glaze.
Copper luster jugs and posy holder, 1960–1970. Earthenware. Jugs: H. 4 1/2". Unmarked. Posy holder: H. 7". Mark: handwritten, mostly hidden under the dark glaze, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.”
Pink luster lamp base, 1960–1970. Whiteware. H. 12". Mark: handwritten, in pink, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg Virginia.”
Five pink luster pieces made and decorated by Thorley, 1960–1970. Vase: H. 4 1/2". Marks: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Jugs in back: H. 4 1/2". Mark: handwritten, in pink, “Williamsburg,” and Thorley’s monogram. Candlestick: H. 6". Unmarked. Jug at right: H. 4 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10).
Pink luster plate, 1960–1970. Bone china. D. 10". Mark: handwritten, in pink, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.” Although not made by Thorley, this plate was decorated and signed by him.
Mark on the underside of the plate illustrated in fig. 84.
Silver luster objects, 1960–1970. Earthenware, with silver on a yellow ground. Left to right: Thorley Jug: H. 4 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Vase: H. 5". Marks: handwritten, in red, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg / Va.” Posy holder: H. 7". Mark: handwritten, in red, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg / Va.” Thorley Jug: H. 4 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10).
Silver luster plate, 1960–1970. Bone china, with silver on a white ground. D. 10". This example was not made by Thorley, but it was decorated by him.
Silver luster sugar bowl, 1960–1970. Bone china, with experimental silver on white ground, covered with many unrelated designs. D. 3 3/4". This bowl has no maker’s mark, but bears many formula names, such as “Kling Ivory black” and “Carters red + Zirc, Spinel.”
Silver luster bowl, 1960–1970. Earthenware, with silver on yellow ground. D. 8 1/2". Mark: Thorley stamp (illustrated in fig. 10). Here Thorley employs the bird design found on the Thorley Jugs (see fig. 24).
Silver luster sugar and creamer, 1960–1970. Bone china, with silver on white ground. H. of creamer, to top of handle, 3 1/2". Mark: (on both) handwritten, in pink, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.” The image shows a finished example of the sugar bowl illustrated in fig. 88.
Silver luster candlesticks, 1960–1970. H. 6". Whiteware, with silver on white ground. Mark (on both): handwritten, in red, “Palin Thorley / Williamsburg.”
See John C. Austin, "J. Palin Thorley (1892-1987), Potter and Designer: Part 1,” Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 2005), pp. 160-201.
The plate was the "GR” plate, which must have been produced for a very short time as it appears only in that one price list. For further discussion on this design, see p. 196, fig. 52.
Louise Bang Fisher, An Eighteenth-Century Garland: The Flower and Fruit Arrangements of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg, 1951).
I noticed the dish was missing during one of my last visits to Palin but do not know whether he gave it away or sold it; perhaps it was stolen.
For more on this period in his career, see Austin, "Thorley, Part 1,” pp. 179-81.
The first refers to a slipware piece he made in his youth (ibid., p. 166); the second to a trick he played on Frederick Rhead (ibid., p. 184); and the third to the luster tea service found in Richmond (see pp. 207, 209 herein).