Chasing China


Regina Dutch Modernist Two-Handled Oxblood Urn (LEO Design)


Traditionally, red glazes have always been the most "temperamental" for potters to control. Small changes in the glaze mixture, kiln temperature or firing time could alter the final coloration of a piece.  For centuries, the Chinese had been creating beautiful "oxblood" ceramics, despite very primitive technology.  Their kilns were essentially earthen mounds, fired with wood, with windows and vents which could be opened or closed to control the temperature.  Despite these hard-to-control conditions, the Chinese had been been able to produce red glazes from the 1400's (and possibly the 900's).  Early oxblood ceramic vessels were used for religious purposes and have sometimes been called "sacrificial ware."

In the 1700's, when trade with Europe was well underway, there was a revival of the color—much to the delight (and frustration) of Europeans who eagerly imported the costly wares (and desperately attempted to copy the glazing).  The Chinese held a valuable secret and they weren't talking!.  It would take nearly 300 years for European ceramicists to "figure out" the complex and erratic glaze.  Meanwhile, 18th and 19th Century European aristocrats would collect such ceramics—to the delight and envy of their aristocratic friends.

Today, modern ceramicists have stable and reliable oxblood glazes to use.  The color is not as difficult to achieve as it once was.  Still, red can easily lean towards orange or brown. And a nice oxblood vase still conveys an air of sophistication.  This Dutch vase, a stylized classical urn, enjoys the artful blend of form and color.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about this vase.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248