Chintz Ware: Epitome of Cottage Style

By Terry Quillen

 

Chintz brings to mind a down-stuffed, slip-covered chair, a sofa worn soft by family and friends. It's where a hot cup of tea is sipped, a novel is read, rain is heard on the window pane.

 

It is also a highly-collectible genre of china, most of it made in England during the first half of the last century. It is characterized by “tightly grouped, highly detailed and vibrant all-over floral patterns,” according to Royal Winton, a foremost manufacturer of chintz ware.

 

(Photo collage, right: The bonbon stand, left, is Royal Winton’s Florence pattern, with details shown up close in the upper right photo. The bowl and creamer, lower right corner, are in the Julia pattern, also by Royal Winton. All pieces are from the author’s collection.)

 

A little history is in order: The word chintz comes from the Sanskrit word “chint,” which means “variegated, flecked or colored.” Around the 17th century, importers brought chintz fabrics from India to Europe, where it was wildly popular. In fact, the English and French textile manufacturers were so threatened by it that it was banned until the mid-18th century – when they started making their own chintz designs. That is also when the first china with chintz-like decoration was made.

 

“Interestingly enough, these hand-painted antiques aren’t today’s most sought-after collectibles,” Elizabeth Large wrote in a 1997 Baltimore Sun piece. “Even more in demand is the chintz earthenware produced for the middle class by a number of different British pottery manufacturers from the 1920s to the 1960s.” They had perfected a lithograph image-transfer process that made chintz ware more affordable.

 

(Photo collage, above left: Booth T-700 at GasLamp Too is a treasure trove of chintz china. Among the offerings are the pieces at upper left, simply marked Winton, which are probably Winifred; Wessex by F Winkle at lower left; and Briar Rose by Lord Nelson at right.)

 

“Put simply, the new lithographic transfer method of decoration employed allowed for busier, more intense ‘sprinklingsof smaller flowers,” says Judith Miller, an expert in antique collectibles. (Note the Royal Brocade pattern from Lord Nelson in the photo, right.)

 

By mid-century, though, housewives preferred something more modern, more streamlined (think Russel Wright), and chintz ware fell out of favor. Then, in the ’80s and ’90s the Laura Ashley trend toward all things English Country brought a revival in all things chintz. From the Knit One, Pearl Onion blog:

 

“In the 1990s, due to a renewed interest in collecting chintz ware and with advances in the transfer production process, potteries once again began reproducing the patterned pottery, but, although beautiful, there is nothing like the look and feel of an original piece.”

 

Knit One, Pearl Onion’s collection (photo, left) includes some of those originals from the ’30s and ’40s, made by the leading English manufacturers Royal Winton, James Kent, Shelley and Lord Nelson.

 

Many of us who collect chintz ware prefer the craftsmanship of the Royal Winton pieces, made by Grimwade’s Ltd., in Stoke-on-Trent. That is not to say that other manufacturers did not make pretty chintz ware. But the quality of the pottery and the designs from Grimwade’s make the Royal Winton pieces exceptionally collectible. (Photo, right: A Royal Winton platter in the Old Cottage pattern, available at Gaslamp Too, in Booth T-700.)

 

Chintz ware, whatever the design, should be enjoyed, not saved for high tea or formal dinners. Pour yourself a chintz ware cup of piping hot tea, pile up in a comfy slip-covered chair, and indulge in an Agatha Christie mystery. You’ll hear English rainfall against the windows before you know it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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