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The Pennsylvania German potters have been producing Pennsylvania redware pottery since the early 18th century. A great deal of the pottery produced during much of this time was strictly utilitarian, but as redware was being replaced in the late 19th century by agate, aluminum and factory produced stoneware, 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 Pennsylvania when he stated, “No other American region approaches this state in diversity of form or exuberance of decoration.”
Colored slips could be trailed, sponged, splotched, combed, fethered or marbelized to creat a variety of effects. The Ultimate in Pennsylvania German decorations however is sgraffito, wherein the plate, bowl or other vessel is covered in a colored slip and when a sharp tool is used to remove or scratch away an area of the applied slip allowing the clay body to show through. The majority of old pieces ranging from 1775-1825 show a wide range of abilities that produced this now very desirable product.
Named after the town the pottery is made in, Robesonia Redware is a family of potters who spent their lives learning and making pottery with and for Lester Breininger, owner of Breininger Pottery. From 1965 until 2011, Breininger Pottery created and reproduced Pennsylvania German pottery, from wheel thrown vases and pitchers to handmade figurines and drape molded plates covered in various slip and sgraffitoed decoration. Great detail was taken 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. Robesonia Redware consists of Scott Madeira, Thilo Schmitz and Curt Pearson who continuously work off their individual strengths to produce museum grade redware.
Scott Madeira, who was employed by Lester Breininger for 40, years makes handmade figurines and animals that have always amazed redware collectors. Starting when he was a young man, his works have been in many museum collections, featured in many magazines and even hanging on the White House Christmas tree. While working a full-time job and making pottery part-time, Scott also helped raise two young boys. He would often bring his boys to work with him and they would watch while their dad would turn lumps of clay into his animals and figurines. Learning at an early age, his two boys, Thilo Schmitz and Curt Pearson, both mastered rolling plates, glazing and firing the redware. Thilo was with Breininger Pottery for over 21 years and has become an amazing sgraffito and sliptrail artist. Curt, an 18 year employee of Breininger Pottery, has become well rounded in decorating, throwing and managing the business making the trio an amazing team of potters.
Together they were the chief designers at Breininger Pottery for the last 10 years it was in business keeping the PA German tradition alive. When the doors to Breininger Pottery closed, our family just couldn’t stay away from playing in the clay. In August of 2011, we opened our own business, Robesonia Redware, to carry on the pottery tradition and make museum grade, heiloom quality pieces for you. We love what we do day in and day out. The long tradition of redware has been in our family for over 80 years combined and we have decided to keep it going.