The use of this material in architectural decoration is, in Europe, of recent date; judging from the results obtained, it would seem likely that this substance will take an important place in the ceramic decoration of future buildings.
Stoneware will not take the place of terra-cotta; it will stand side by side with it, and its presence will introduce a special feature into the general ornamentation of buildings. It would therefore be a mistake to try to make one art imitation of the other; let us rather leave to each its own qualities and characteristics.
Figs. 877, 879, 881. - Carter & Co. Figs. 876, 878, 880, 882. - Maw & Co.
Imperviousness and hardness are the valuable advantages which stoneware has over terra-cotta, but these are counterbalanced by the difficulties of manufacture, and especially by the liability of stonewares to lose their shape at that moment in firing when softening takes place. In the case of artistic pieces of curved shapes, this deformation is avoided with comparative ease.
The material is more or less coloured according to the purity of the ingredients used; it may be left dull or be covered with a glaze. The latter is generally transparent, as opaque enamels do not give good results.
The silico-alkaline glaze (sea-salt at a high temperature) gives satisfactory results in certain cases, but it is often advisable to use glazes which are fixed by a second firing at a lower temperature, such as soft glazes and even transparent enamels, for the colour used in the paste or glaze allows of very pleasing and varied effects being obtained. For instance, coloured dips may be applied to the stoneware and afterwards developed by a felspar glaze; by firing successively in reducing and oxidising atmospheres, different tints are obtained, which are the more charming as they are unexpected. By taking dips which melt at a lower temperature than that of the firing of stoneware, colours of pleasing appearance are produced; the Chinese and Japanese have made frequent use of this process.
The English are past masters in the manufacture of common and artistic stoneware; the firm of Doulton is particularly famous for its productions, which are remarkable for their finish, good taste, and excellent quality.
In France, the firm of fimile Muller has for some years manufactured decorative stoneware. As long ago as the Exhibition of 1889 it produced several enamelled friezes for the Palace of the Argentine Republic, one of which, called "des Chats" (Fig. 867, to the left on the pillars), was quite a masterpiece. Since then, at Chicago, and at the different salons in Paris, it has shown other specimens (frieze of the Archers and of the Lions of Darius, reproduction of the works of Falguiere, etc.) which exemplify the pleasing effects of decorative stoneware. We cannot lay too much stress upon these interesting attempts, which are evidence of an earnest endeavour to endow architecture with a new element of decoration. Experiments of this nature are very costly, and the men who initiate them rarely, even in case of success, gain great pecuniary benefit from their work.
In a less pretentious manner stoneware has been turned to account for the manufacture of decorated balustrades, etc. Its durability renders it valuable in certain cases.