Earthenware refers to a class of pottery made from naturally occurring clays and fired at a relatively low temperature. It is lightweight, porous, and opaque, and must receive a glaze in order to hold liquids. Its less expensive components and ease of production, nevertheless, made it a mainstay of the British potteries, particularly after the perfecting of underglaze printing lead to the explosive transferware phenomenon.
The extensive variety of earthenwares encompasses creamware, pearlware, yellow "canary" ware, some lustres, and lightweight relief-molded vessels ("Pratt-type). Likewise a range of printing and enameling techniques - both underglaze and overglaze - are represented.
Despite its ubiquity, earthenwares are subject to what must be the most common misnomer in English ceramics. For some reason - even in print - earthenware goods are frequently called "soft paste." This is a double error. First "paste" refers only to the porcelain body. Second, "soft paste" properly designates a very different product phase in the development of English porcelain. Perhaps the lightness and graininess of the earthenware body link intuitively to the notion of softness. Whatever the cause, when tempted to use the term "soft paste," pause and ask yourself "Is it really earthenware?"
For the most part, underglaze printed earthenware is presented in the transferware sections of this website.