Slip-trailed decoration

Slip-trailed Heimberg plate with incised detailing, 1792.

Slip-trailed decoration in CERAMICA CH

Andreas Heege, 2019

Slip-trailed decoration was applied to the leather-hard, slip-coated or biscuit-fired vessel body using a slip-trailer (made from cow horn or pottery) and then glazed. The slip either fired white or was coloured using metal ions. Slip-trailed decoration could be monochrome or polychrome.

Depending on the thickness of the slip, the decoration could be almost imperceptible to the touch or could stand out in high relief. If the decoration was made with very runny slip or applied to a very wet surface, it was almost impossible sometimes to distinguish between brushwork and slip-trailed decoration, as both techniques resulted in a smooth surface. In both techniques, the undercoating had to be fairly runny to achieve a marbling effect in the well from the different colours of slip. Another visual effect was achieved by using different-coloured glazes (usually transparent, yellow or green).

Slip trailing was often combined with other decorative techniques (poured slip decoration, combed decoration, chattered decoration, splashed decoration, incised decoration). The technique was developed in central Europe around the middle of the 16th century and is still used in the workshops of many artisan potters today.

Film on slip trailing recorded at the workshop of potter Ulrich Kohler in Schüpbach, Canton of Bern (from minute 7:34)

Film showing a slip-trailer being used in Horezu Romania (from minute 2:10)

Translation Sandy Haemmerle

German: Malhorndekor

French: décor au barolet, décor aux barbotines argileuses,  décor à la corne


Stephan 1980
Hans-Georg Stephan, Zur Typologie und Chronologie von Keramik des 17. Jahrhunderts im Oberweserraum, in: Wingolf Lehnemann, Töpferei in Nordwestdeutschland (Beiträge zur Volkskultur in Nordwestdeutschland, Heft 3), Münster 1980, 69-124.

Stephan 1981
Hans-Georg Stephan, Werrakeramik und Weserware. Zentren der Renaissancekeramik im Werraland und an der Oberweser, in: Hans-Peter Mielke, Keramik an Weser, Werra und Fulda (Schriften des Mindener Museums 1), Minden 1981, 69-90.

Stephan 1987
Hans-Georg Stephan, Die bemalte Irdenware der Renaissance in Mitteleuropa (Forschungshefte herausgegeben vom Bayerischen Nationalmuseum 12), München 1987.