Chambers Dictionary defines the word ‘chintz’ thus:
‘chintz chints, n a glazed fabric cotton, usu printed in several colours on a white or light ground. – adj chintz’y covered with, or like, chintz; (of décor) flowery, like chintz (often derog), cheap, tawdry; mean, miserly. [Orig pl, from Hindi chit spotted cotton cloth]
So from this definition we can pick out a basic outline and history of chintz ceramics. We have an origin with the reference to ‘flowery’ fabric production in India at some time in the past with the term ‘chintz’ later being applied to anything ‘flowery’. And then there is the strange connection with cheapness or meanness. The following text will look deeper in to the chintz phenomenon and explore further the background to Chambers’ definition of chintz and Myott’s involvement with the art form.
England imported chintz fabrics from India in the seventeenth century. Becoming known as ‘Persian’ prints, these cotton cloths were durable and were used extensively in the English home of the period. The beautiful flowery patterns and the starched sheen of the fabric meant they could be wiped clean and gave the appearance of silk rather than cotton. The stay-fast dyes such as ‘madder’ from the Indian ‘chay’ plant produced bright colours, and although the fabric was extremely expensive in the seventeenth century, by the eighteenth century chintz had well and truly established itself in the homes of the English, Dutch and French. Country houses took the lead and chintz was very often used for quilt production a tradition that is still prevalent today.
England’s involement with chintz fabric production began with designers sending patterns out to Indian hand-block printers and dyers, but by the early nineteenth century mechanised printing processes had been developed in Lancashire to allow home textile production. This had the advantage of increased production at cheaper cost and allowed chintz fabrics to be available to all walks of life.
Probably as a reaction to the success of Grimwade’s Royal Winton chintz output, Myott in the 1930’s stuck their finger in to the proverbial chintz pie with their own chintz patterns. Much of the output was produced for export, as can be seen today, many Myott chintz sales are located in America and Canada.
There were only a few chintz patterns produced, namely: ‘Summer Flower’, ‘May Flower’ (or ‘Spring Flower’) and Bermuda which made use of a larger floral pattern which was reflected in tastes of this later chintz period. The use of hand-painted areas was integrated with the flowery transfers, perhaps to stamp Myott’s own mark on the products or to overcome technical difficulties in applying the transfer to difficult areas such as spouts and handles.