Everything has an end
From the 17th century on, a slow and gradual decline of the Raeren pottery craft started. There were several reasons that led to this. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) as well as the following wars of the French Sun King Louis XIV had left devastating destruction in the village.
The discovery of porcelain by Johann Friedrich Böttger in 1709 caused the more plump stoneware to become unfashionable as decorative kitchenware and the production was limited again to the more simple kitchenware of practical use. During the French time (1794-1814), the free quarrying of clay and the use of the forests were forbidden to the potters. Poverty among potters increased. 1850 saw the last Raeren potter's kiln burning.
A new Renaissance
At the end of the 19th century, there was a large interest in art and arts and crafts of the Renaissance. This epoch between Biedermeier and Art Nouveau is called Historicism. It includes the Neogothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque style. Pieces of art from the 16th and 17th century were copied as accurately as possible and sold like hot cakes. Today, those imitations are called forgeries. Sometimes they were made with the original Raeren matrixes and therefore also show pottery signs and dates of the 16th century. Nevertheless, a skilled and careful observer can easily differentiate between the fakes and the originals.
Stoneware from the catalogue
In the second half of the 19th century, apart from the Westerwald artistic potters the company C.W. Fleischmann from Nürnberg also had big success with the imitation of Rhenish stoneware. Especially imitations of Raeren, Cologne and Westerwald stoneware of the Renaissance were sold via catalogue. In Raeren, Hubert Schiffer (1851-1923) tried to revive the old arts and crafts. He produced mostly brown historicism-stoneware. In both cases, the jugs weren't turned freely on the potter's wheel but were turned into prefabricated forms of plaster of Paris. When taking a close look, the seam where the two halves of the jugs were put together can still be seen on some pieces.
Stonemason, poet and potter
Hubert Schiffer (1851-1923) earned his livings in a quarry. He was an artistically skilled person and spent his leisure time with regional poetry. In the
year 1882, the idea came to him to revive the old pottery craft.Together with the two still living masters of pottery, Leonard Mennicken and Joseph Pitz-Matissen, he started to produce stoneware according to the style of the Renaissance. At the same time he also developed some own forms and decorations. He signed his pieces with an HS carved in the bottom so that they couldn't be sold as forgeries. Even though he received governmental support he had to close down his workshop in 1887 due to economic difficulties. Today, Schiffer-jugs are a popular collector's item.
Ceramics of belief
Maria Hasemeier-Eulenbruch (1899-1972) is a well-known ceramic craftswoman of the 20th century. From 1944 on, she lived and worked in Raeren. She was trained in the Cologne Werkbundschule. Her sculptural ceramics is shaped by her deep belief. She mostly built religious sculptures out of coarse, red or white firing clay. She only produced glazed vessel pottery to earn the livings for her family. Her sculptural works are scattered all over the world.
Still today, ceramics belong to everyday life. Apart from the kitchenware of practical use, sculptural ceramics also developed during the 20th century. Modern techniques of firing in electrical kilns or the rediscovery of ancient Asian firing techniques like the raku or the anagama stoneware have contributed to an even larger diversity. Still today, stoneware, earthenware, faience and porcelain are produced by extraordinary craftworkers all over the world. Thanks to the immense diversity in form, colour and artistic approaches, ceramics is probably one of the most interesting craftworks ever.