TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – DAY EIGHT – MAIDS-A-MILKING



There are, of course, a dozen different objects of desire listed in the concurrent verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, and yet now, although we are only at day eight, we find the finest of them all. Cows.

 

Specifically, to be fair – pearlware creamers – marvellous figurines of milkmaids about their business (although there are also examples without the maids, giving the cows an appropriate starring role in splendid isolation). Pearlware, for its part, was an English pottery type developed in the cradle of the industry, Staffordshire, in the latter part of the 18th century. It is generally attributed to none other than Josiah Wedgewood but, as with many specific types of pottery, an accurate and accredited source is difficult to pin down. It seems more likely that Wedgewood’s pursuit of “a white earthenware (material) and a colourless or white opaque glaze, very proper for tea and other wares” was his own take on the broader attempts by several potters of the day to produce a brighter, whiter version of the already extant creamware.

 

His experimentation included the substitution of cobalt for iron oxide as a constituent to the glaze applied to pieces, which gave it a translucent, blue’ish cast and the sought-after, marked difference from creamware. It’s simple to assign such an important name as Wedgewood to pearlware, and although he undoubtedly produced and sold examples of the material, he never did so in any great quantities and – by his own admission – could not “find it in my heart to relinquish my good old creamcolour (ware)”.

 

Several different manufactories were to produce pearlware items, further diluting any perceived Wedgewood exclusivity, and it is perhaps best regarded as a style which, although peculiar to a relatively small region and narrow timeframe, was never monopolised by, nor should be attributed to, just one producer.

 

This rather co-operative approach to the creation of pearlware pieces is reflected by our fine collection of cows and their attendant maids. There are subtle differences to the exact composition of some of the examples I have found, in addition to the more obviously differing colour schemes which show much greater variation in hue, pattern and method of application – clearly indicating the adoption of what must have been a popular design by several different production facilities, each producing their own slightly different take on the basic form.

 

One common feature is the fact that the cow’s tail is always shown as being raised and curled round over its back for use as a handle. I can tell you now that if you ever see a cow striking this pose, you need to make very sure that you’re not standing behind it – particularly if it’s spring and your girls have just been returned to pasture having spent the worst of the winter in their barn; the reintroduction to fresh grass after a few weeks of hay and dry food has the most extraordinarily purgative effect on their digestive systems…

 

This general tendency to non-uniformity does however mean, rather gratifyingly, that I am able to show a full complement of eight maids a-milking (and although “herd” is the obvious collective noun for even such a small assemblage of cows, I’m not absolutely sure what the same sort of appellation should be for the maids – possibly a “romp” or a “frolic”).

 

As you’re here, why not take advantage of our Christmas Sale – select anything you want on the entire store, and use the code TWELVEDAYS in the shopping cart to get 12% off the marked price – the promotion runs until January 6th, so take your time and browse through the very many items we have listed.