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The Pennsylvania German people have been producing redware pottery since the early 18th century. A great deal of pottery produced during much of this time was strictly utilitarian. Redware began to be replaced by agate, aluminum and factory produced stoneware in the late 19th century. Decorative pieces of redware, especially flowerpots, continued to be produced.
This process continues, without interruption, to this day. Brian Cullity, of the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich Massachusetts, was speaking of PA when he stated, “No other American region approaches this state in diversity of form or exuberance of decoration.”
There are several decoration techniques in Pennsylvania German pottery production. Colored slips can be trailed, sponged, splotched, combed, feathered or marbleized on top of the clay to create a variety of effects. The most desired decoration technique in Pennsylvania German pottery is sgraffito.
Sgraffito, Italian for “scratch”, is the process wherein the vessel is covered in a colored slip and a sharp tool is used to remove or scratch away an area of the applied slip. This allows the clay body to show through. The majority of old pieces ranging from 1775-1825 show a wide range of abilities that produced these different decoration styles.
How It Began
Robesonia Redware is a family of potters. Former Breininger Pottery employees Scott Madeira, Thilo Schmitz and Curt Pearson formed it. They spent their lives learning and making pottery with and for Lester Breininger. Therefore, they were the chief designers at Breininger Pottery for the last 10 years it was in business.
From 1965 until 2011 Breininger Pottery became a well known name in Pennsylvania German redware pottery. It created everything from wheel thrown vases to handmade figurines and drape molded plates covered in various decoration in the quaint town of Robesonia, PA. The pottery took great detail to keep the traditional style of pottery making alive, from duck quills in slip cups to plate molds dating back to the early 18th century.
Scott began working for Lester Breininger in 1972. He draws much of his inspiration from the many animals around his 5 acre property. Similarly, Scott finds inspiration in references books, pictures or historical museum pieces. He has been making handmade figurines for over 50 years that have always amazed redware collectors. As a result, his works have been in many museum collections, featured in many magazines and even hanging on the White House Christmas tree.
Scott also helped raise two young boys. and since he worked a full-time job, he would often bring them to work with him at the pottery while he worked there part-time. The boys, Thilo and Curt would watch while their dad would turn lumps of clay into his animals and figurines.
As the boys grew, so did their love of pottery and so both boys “officially” started in pottery at the age of 12. Thilo, the older of Scott’s sons, became an amazing sgraffito artist, retiring from pottery in 2017. Curt, the younger son, has become well rounded in all areas of redware production, decoration, finishing and managing the business over the last 29 years.
Living The Dream
When the doors to Breininger Pottery closed, our family just couldn’t stay away from playing in the clay. We opened Robesonia Redware, July 17, 2011. In 2012, Michelle, Curt’s wife, joined the family business bringing her background in Graphic Design, marketing and event planning with her as she learns and grows as a sgraffito artist. April 1, 2013, we opened our store which was located on Penn Avenue near the center of Robesonia, PA. Due to a sudden, unexpected family situation, the doors to our store were closed December 23,2023.
We root everything we do, from technique to design, in Pennsylvania German inspiration and tradition. We love what we do day in and day out. Our family has been carrying on the long tradition of redware pottery for over 80 years combined. We will continue to make museum grade, heirloom quality pieces for you.