Domestic Metalwork and Household Objects FAQs
Learn more about the Museum's collection of domestic metalwork
- How is sponge-ware made?
- Were ceramic and earthenware pieces used for everyday eating and drinking?
- What ironwork did the local blacksmith make for use in the home?
- What is sponge-ware?
- What other types of objects were used in the Irish home?
- What type of glass is collected for the Irish Folklife collection?
- When did such objects stop being used in the Irish home?
- Where can I find out more about Domestic Metalwork, Blacksmithery and Sponge-ware?
How is sponge-ware made?
A pattern is cut into the sponge, which is then dipped in colour. This is applied to a piece of bisque-fired pottery, which is then dipped in glaze and fired again.
Were ceramic and earthenware pieces used for everyday eating and drinking?
Ceramic pieces such as willow pattern plates and sponge-ware mugs and bowls were in everyday use, but they were highly valued for their decorative function, and took pride of place on the kitchen dresser. The decoration of the dresser was an indication of the wealth of the household.
What ironwork did the local blacksmith make for use in the home?
The blacksmith produced a wide variety of goods and services for the local community. He made and repaired a wide range of domestic items, such as oatcake and bread toasters, rushlight holders, flesh forks, hardening stands, toasting forks, kettles, gridirons, pots, gridles and pans, and hearth cranes and attachments.
Very often the blacksmith showed his skill by adding decorative flourishes to his work, giving functional household items an attractive look.
What is sponge-ware?
Sponge-ware is a patterned pottery that became widespread in the late 19th Century as the general population’s prosperity increased. Mugs, plates and bowls were available with sponged patterns, and though the body of the item was much coarser than the fine china of wealthier dining tables, the bright colourful patterns were very attractive.
Relatively few pieces have the maker’s mark; it is thought much of the earthenware was made in England and Scotland, though Belleek and Arklow potteries are known to have produced sponge-ware.
What other types of objects were used in the Irish home?
Before the widespread use of earthenware in our homes, a variety of other materials were used for making a range of household containers and utensils. The collection contains utensils carved from wood, horn and bone; as well as copper, pewter and tin vessels.
Turned or stave-built wooden noggins and piggins, used for holding liquids, were also used in the home.
What type of glass is collected for the Irish Folklife collection?
The Irish Folklife collection of glass focuses on examples illustrating everyday use - bottles, drinking glasses and containers – rather than decorative glass, such as decanters.
When did such objects stop being used in the Irish home?
As improvements in living conditions in the lower and middle levels of society gradually improved into the 20th Century, many everyday objects of local manufacture – pots, pans, copper, tin and wooden utensils were dispensed with in favour of shop bought articles.
Many of the discarded objects were acquired by the Museum in the following years.
Where can I find out more about Domestic Metalwork, Blacksmithery and Sponge-ware?
David Shaw-Smith (Editor) Traditional Crafts of Ireland, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.
Aldren A. Watson, The Village Blacksmith, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1977.
Jocelyn Bailey, The Village Blacksmith, Shire Publications, 1977.
Olive Sharkey, Ways of Old: Traditional Life in Ireland, O’Brien Press, 1985, 2000.
Olive Sharkey, Old Days, Old Ways: An Illustrated Folk History of Ireland, O’Brien Press, 1985.
Jaqueline Fearne, Domestic Bygones, Shire Publications.
Henry E. Kelly, Dorothy E. Kowalsky, Arnold A. Kowalsky, Spongeware 1835-1935, Makers, Marks and Patterns, Schiffer, Surrey, 2001.
Gillian Neale, Miller’s Encyclopedia of British Transfer-Printed Pottery Patterns 1790-1930, Millers, London, 2005.
Arnold A. Kowalsky, Dorothy E. Kowalsky, Encyclopedia of marks on American, English, and European earthenware, ironstone and stoneware (1780-1980) makers, marks, and patterns in blue and white, historic blue, flow blue, mulberry, romantic transferware, tea leaf, and white ironstone, Schiffer, Atglen, PA, 1999.
Thomas Plowman, Craft Pottery, Shire Publications, 1976/1980.
A.A.C. Hedges, Bottles and Bottle Collecting, Shire Publications, 1975.
Richard Hayman, Wrought Iron, Shire Publications, 2000.
Charles Hull, Pewter, Shire Publications, 1992.
David Sekers, The Potteries, Shire Publications, 1999.