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Russell K. Skowronik, Ronald L. Bishop, M. James Blackman, Michael Imwalle, and Ruben Reyes
Rediscovering the Ceramic History of the California Frontier

Ceramics in America 2015

Full Article
Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Map of Alta California showing presidio districts and associated missions, pueblos, and presidios during the Spanish and Mexican era, 1769–1848. (Ronald L. Bishop, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Plot of the data obtained for the architectural ceramics from Santa Barbara Presidio and Missions Santa Barbara, Santa Inés, La Purísima Concepción, and San Buenaventura. The sample locations are shown relative to their abundance of cesium, chromium, and zinc. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    (A) Plot of the bricks, tiles, and plain ceramic ware from the Santa Barbara Presidio, Missions Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura, and the Olivas Adobe relative to the abundances of scandium and zinc. The two statistically refined groups enclosed with 95% confidence ellipses are composed of the samples from Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura chemical group 1. The green down-pointing triangles represent Mission San Buenaventura bricks and tiles of chemical group 2. (B) Plot of the bricks, tiles, and plain ceramic ware from the Santa Barbara Presidio, Missions Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura, and Olivas Adobe relative to the abundances of chromium and zinc showing all of the San Buenaventura ceramics from the Santa Barbara chemical group. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Plot of bricks, tiles, and plain earthenware ceramics relative to the abundance of chromium and zinc. The two statistically refined groups are enclosed with 95% confidence ellipses. Resolution of the overlap between ceramics from Mission Santa Barbara and La Purísima Concepción is illustrated in fig. 5. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Plot of La Purísima Concepción cluster 1 plain earthenware and architectural ceramics shown relative to concentrations of scandium and zinc. All of the La Purísima Concepción ceramics are shown to lie outside of the 95% confidence interval for the Santa Barbara compositional group. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Plot of the concentrations of chromium vs. scandium for all the lead-glazed earthenwares recovered from sites in the Santa Barbara jurisdiction relative to the 95% confidence ellipses for the Santa Barbara and Santa Inés architectural and plain earthenware ceramics compositional groups. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Plot of the concentrations of chromium vs. scandium for all the lead-glazed earthenwares recovered from sites in the Santa Barbara jurisdiction relative to the 95% confidence ellipses for the San Buenaventura and La Purísima Concepción architectural and plain earthenware ceramics compositional groups. (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Fragments of bricks and tiles recovered from archaeological excavations at El Presidio de Santa Barbara (CA-SBA-133), Santa Barbara, California, 2005. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Civilian Conservation Corps members making roof tiles at La Purísima Concepción, near Lompoc, California, ca. 1938. (Courtesy, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park Archives.)

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    The arc of a curved roof tile replicated by students at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Unfired roof tiles drying on curved plaster molds cast from original Presidio roof tiles, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    (Left) Roof tile made with somewhat dry clay; (right) roof tile formed with somewhat wet soft clay, which is ­relatively flat or collapsed, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    The Chumash Indians learned tile making at La Purísima Concepción and other missions in the region. Oil painting, artist and date unknown. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center.)

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Clamp-style brick kiln at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) Note the multiple stoking holes.

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Brick and tile kiln, Mexico, ca. 1950s. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection; photo, Arthur Woodward.)

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Located in Tecate, Mexico, this brick-and-tile kiln owned by George Davidson fired the roof and floor tiles for the 1985 reconstruction of the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel. (Photo, Michael Pownall.)

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Two-chamber updraft brick kiln used by Franciscan friars during the 1942 restoration of Mission San Miguel in California. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection.)

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Bricks and tiles produced by the Redwind Native American Community in San Luis Obispo, California, 1980. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center; photo, Norman Caldwell.)

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Updraft brick-and-tile kiln used by the Redwind Native American Community, 1980. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center; photo, Norman Caldwell.)

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    “Volcano-style” kiln at Mission San Juan Capistrano. (Drawing by Jack S. Williams; illustrated in “Field Notes: Kiln Documentation, Mission San Juan Capistrano [CA-ORA-856H],” 1996.)

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    (Left) Small, open-top circular tile kiln at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia; (right) large, open-top circular tile kiln at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, 2009. (Photos, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Sketch by José Cardero of the Monterey Presidio, with inset showing tile kiln details, 1791. (Courtesy, Bancroft Library.)

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Circular, open-top tile kilns used during the 1920s restoration of the San Bernadino Asistencía of Mission San Gabriel. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection.)

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Archaeologist M. R. Harrington alongside La Purísima Concepción tile kiln, 1940. (Courtesy, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park Archives.)

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Map of La Purísima Concepción complex with ruins of circular tile kiln, 1938. (Courtesy, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park Archives.)

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Reconstructed arch of feature interpreted as a tile kiln by M. R. Harring­ton at La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Large tallow vat added to top of feature formerly interpreted as a tile kiln by M. R. Harrington, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Scale model (1/10th) of Mission San Antonio tile kiln based on Julia Costello’s 1997 plan. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Scale model (1/10th) of Mission San Antonio tile kiln with one of the added slanted or “cockeyed” entryways removed. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Close-up of Mission San Antonio kiln model showing position of fired tile arches that would form the firing chamber of a two-chamber updraft kiln. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Top of arches forming the open floor or grate of the ware chamber, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Interior arches of a two-chamber updraft kiln, La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Firing of 1/10th-scale model of the tile kiln at Mission San Antonio, 2007. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.) This demonstration helped to better understand how the structure was modified from its original use.

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Kelly Greenwalt learned the fundamentals of making pottery in about forty hours under the watchful eye of master potter Ruben Reyes, 2006. (Photo, Russell K. Skowronek.)

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    A bucket of unprocessed clay from Mission Creek near Mission San José close to the eastern shores of San Francisco Bay, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Reconstructed pottery shop at Mission La Purísima Concepción, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) Large amounts of clay would have been pulverized in this mixing vat. Historically a burro would have provided the power for reducing the clay to a satisfactory consistency.

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Mixed clay from Mission San José ready for aging and drying, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Block of clay from Mission San José ready for wedging, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Wedging, a very labor- and time-intensive endeavor, is necessary for removing air bubbles prior to pottery making, 2006. (Photo, Kelly Greenwalt.)

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    A ball of processed clay from Mission San José ready to be used, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Throwing from the mound was one of the techniques used in Spanish California. (Left) a small bowl or cup is being “pulled” from the mound; (center) the nearly finished cup is cut from the mound; (right) the finished vessel is lifted from the mound, leaving the remainder of the clay for the next vessel, 2006. (Photos, Kelly Greenwalt.)

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Base of a ceramic vessel found at Mission San Antonio de Padua, near Jolon, California, bearing the distinctive marks associated with vessels thrown from the mound, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Jack Williams was able to reconstruct several forms of plates and brimmed bowls in his analysis of ceramics from Mission San Antonio de Padua. (Drawing by Elizabeth Skowronek, based on original in Williams, “Early Nineteenth Century Plainware Pottery from Mission San Antonio de Padua Alta California” [1983], ms. on file at Mission San Antonio Archives, Jolon, California.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Replicated 10 1/2" wheel-thrown brimmed bowl based on forms from Mission San Antonio de Padua, 2015. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    This nearly intact 4" diameter wheel-thrown small bowl or cup was excavated at Mission San Antonio de Padua, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Replicated 4" diameter wheel-thrown small bowl or cup based on the original found at Mission San Antonio de Padua, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Jack Williams was able to reconstruct a chocolotera (chocolate pot) based on sherds found at Mission San Antonio de Padua. (Drawing by Elizabeth Skowronek, based on original in Williams, “Early Nineteenth Century Plainware Pottery from Mission San Antonio de Padua.”)

  • Figure 48
    Figure 48

    Replicated 9" wheel-thrown chocolotera with pulled handle, based on Jack Williams’s 1983 reconstruction at Mission San Antonio de Padua, 2015. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Found at Mission San Antonio de Padua, this 10" wheel-thrown storage or cooking vessel may have been modeled after basketry forms. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 50
    Figure 50

    Replicated wheel-thrown storage or cooking vessel based on one found at Mission San Antonio de Padua, 2015. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 51
    Figure 51

    This shallow, 7" diameter bowl or plate was found at Mission Santa Clara de Asís. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.) It was made using the anvil technique.

  • Figure 52
    Figure 52

    Ceramic anvils made by Ruben Reyes, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 53
    Figure 53

    A slab of clay is placed on the anvil, then paddled over the anvil, 2006. (Photo, Kelly Greenwalt.)

  • Figure 54
    Figure 54

    The anvil is carefully removed from the now-formed clay bowl, 2006. (Photo, Kelly Greenwalt.)

  • Figure 55
    Figure 55

    The clay bowl awaiting a final trimming of excess clay, 2006. (Photo, Kelly Greenwalt.)

  • Figure 56
    Figure 56

    College students from Santa Clara University in 2007 were making vessels in less than thirty minutes using the anvil technique. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 57
    Figure 57

    Experiments with open-pit fires demonstrated the utility of this production process, 2007. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 58
    Figure 58

    Close-up of “firing clouds” produced on vessels during experimental pit firing, 2007. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 59
    Figure 59

    Ruben Reyes adjusting flue to regulate heat of demonstration kiln during experimental firing at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 60
    Figure 60

    Saggers produced by Ruben Reyes for experimental glaze firing, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 61
    Figure 61

    Example of both clavos and clay rods supporting mayólica vessels in a cutaway view of a sagger, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 62
    Figure 62

    Replica San Elizario Polychrome mayólica vessel supported by fired clay rods used to support maiolica vessels. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 63
    Figure 63

    Example of Spanish colonial caballitos found at Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga in Goliad, Texas, 2008. (Photo, Russell Skowronek.)

  • Figure 64
    Figure 64

    Mexican kiln loaded with vessels for a bisque firing, ca. 1950s. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection; photo, Arthur Woodward.) Note caballitos in left foreground.

  • Figure 65
    Figure 65

    Replicated San Agustín Blue-on-white mayólica replica with caballito in place after firing, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 66
    Figure 66

    Visible in this close-up are the scars left in the surface of the glaze of this replicated San Elizario Polychrome mayólica vessel, a result of breaking the caballito free of the vessel, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 67
    Figure 67

    Santa Barbara Mission with pottery kiln in foreground, 1880s. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection.)

  • Figure 68
    Figure 68

    Detail of the photograph illustrated in fig. 67.

  • Figure 69
    Figure 69

    Potter Ireneo Mendoza with top-loading, updraft pottery kiln at Mission San Juan Capistrano, 1937. (Courtesy, Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library, Edith Webb Collection; photo, Hugh Pascal Webb.)

  • Figure 70
    Figure 70

    Overview of pottery production and firing demonstration at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Santa Barbara, California, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 71
    Figure 71

    Pottery shop and potter’s wheel at La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, 2006. (Photo, Ruben Reyes.)

  • Figure 72
    Figure 72

    Replica pottery kiln at La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 73
    Figure 73

    Ruben Reyes constructing arches, frame, and walls of a two-chamber updraft demonstration kiln at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 74
    Figure 74

    Ruben Reyes stoking during experimental kiln firing at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 75
    Figure 75

    Graph showing the progression of kiln temperatures during experimental kiln firing in 2007.

  • Figure 76
    Figure 76

    Presidio demonstration kiln with bisqued vessels after initial experimental firing in April 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 77
    Figure 77

    Ruben Reyes adjusting the flue on California’s only wood-fired, Spanish colonial–style updraft kiln, El Presidio de Santa Barbara, June 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 78
    Figure 78

    Anacapa School students Joshua Figueroa, Aubrey Cazabat, and Wishiah Roper screening clay for ceramic production, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 79
    Figure 79

    Ruben Reyes demonstrating wheel-thrown pottery for schoolchildren at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park’s “Early California Days” living-history program, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 80
    Figure 80

    A group of green and bisque-fired ceramics ready for experimental firing at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 81
    Figure 81

    San Diego Polychrome mayólica plate fragment, Puebla, Mexico, 1750–1835. Tin-glazed earthenware. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) The tin-glazed ceramics of the Spanish colonial world are very colorful. This fragment with a sunflower design was recovered from archaeological investigations at El Presidio de Santa Barbara in 2009.

  • Figure 82
    Figure 82

    San Elizario Polychrome mayólica plate fragment, Puebla, Mexico, 1750–1830. Tin-glazed earthenware. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) This was recovered at El Presidio de Santa Barbara.

  • Figure 83
    Figure 83

    Plot of cerium vs. chromium showing the association of the California mayólica samples with the major Mexican production centers at Puebla and Mexico City, the Spanish center at Sevilla/Triana, and the Panama City production in Panama. The ellipses represent 90% confidence intervals. Each symbol represents a different mission, presidio, or pueblo (individual sites not identified). (M. James Blackman, Smithsonian Institution.)

  • Figure 84
    Figure 84

    Eighteenth-century plan of the port and naval supply depot at San Blas, Mexico. (Courtesy, Archivo General de Nación, Mexico City, Mexico.)

  • Figure 85
    Figure 85

    Mayólica reproductions from Mexico. (Left) Puebla tradition, twentieth century; (right) Aranama tradition. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 86
    Figure 86

    Partially reconstructed Aranama Polychrome, 1750–1800, and Puebla Blue-on-white, 1750–1850, Puebla, Mexico. Tin-glazed earthenware. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) These fragments are from archaeological excavations at Soledad Mission.

  • Figure 87
    Figure 87

    The dining room (comedor) of the commandant’s quarters (comandancia) at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park in Santa Barbara, California, 2009. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 88
    Figure 88

    Replicated soup plate (sopero) on potter’s wheel in Pottery Shop at La Purísima Mission near Lompoc, California, 2006. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 89
    Figure 89

    Ruben Reyes wore a protective mask and gloves while mixing the tin glaze for the 2007 experimental glazing and painting project conducted at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 90
    Figure 90

    Iron-oxide concretions excavated on the grounds of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park were manually ground into fine powder for use as a black or brown pigment in oxide paints for decorating glazed ceramics. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 91
    Figure 91

    Dr. Russell Skowronek grinding, mixing, and weighing oxides for paints, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 92
    Figure 92

    Composite of mayólica patterns reconstructed by Anita Cohen-Williams and Jack S. Williams. (Adapted in 2007 by authors, from “Reconstructing Maiolica Patterns from Spanish Colonial Sites in Southern California,” California Mission Studies Meeting, San Luis Obispo, 2004.)

  • Figure 93
    Figure 93

    Mayólica patterns painted by volunteers in 2007 to replicate patterns reconstructed by Cohen-Williams and Williams in “Reconstructing Maiolica Patterns from Spanish Colonial Sites in Southern California.” (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 94
    Figure 94

    Dr. Robert Hoover painting a Puebla Blue-on-white sopero, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 95
    Figure 95

    (Left) San Elizario Polychrome sopero (illustrated in Cohen-Williams and Williams, “Reconstructing Maiolica Patterns from Spanish Colonial Sites in Southern California”); (center) San Elizario Polychrome sopero replica painted by Karen Anderson and Toni Clark before firing, 2007; (right) San Elizario Polychrome sopero painted by Karen Anderson and Toni Clark after firing, 2007. (Photos, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 96
    Figure 96

    (Left) Replica Tucson Polychrome sopero fired in a sagger; (right) San Elizario Polychrome sopero fired without a sagger, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.) Note the clear, bright, glossy glaze of the saggered vessel and the dark, dull appearance of the carbon trapped in the unprotected vessel.

  • Figure 97
    Figure 97

    Elizabeth Skowronek, our “research assistant,” at the beginning of the project in 2000, holding a 200-year-old escudilla at Mission San Antonio, and in 2010, holding a replicated escudilla. (Photos, Russell Skowronek.) Currently a college student studying engineering, Elizabeth continues to work on aspects of this and related projects.

  • Figure 98
    Figure 98

    Two-chamber Spanish-colonial updraft kiln at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park during the firing of the mayólica, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 99
    Figure 99

    Assortment of mayólica vessels produced during glazing and painting project, 2007. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 100
    Figure 100

    Replicated mayólica apothecary jars on exhibit in the circa-1830s Casa De la Guerra store, Santa Barbara, California, 2009. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 101
    Figure 101

    Replicated San Elizario Polychrome soperos on edge in the cupboard (second and third row from top) of the comandancia (commandant’s quarters), El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 2009. (Photo, Michael Imwalle.)

  • Figure 102
    Figure 102

    For five years (2009–2014) a bilingual exhibition on the California Pottery Project at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park explained the processes of pottery fabrication and analysis. (Courtesy, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Santa Barbara, California.)

  • Figure 103
    Figure 103

    A panel in the exhibition “Ceramics Rediscovered” at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park details how instrumental neutron activation analysis can “fingerprint” ceramics. (Courtesy, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Santa Barbara, California.)