We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Chalkware?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The term chalkware refers to small decorative figurines molded or sculpted from plaster of paris made with gypsum; it is believed that this art form originated in Europe, most likely in Italy. These figures were extremely popular in the 1800s and early 1900s as a less expensive alternative ceramic pieces, but they were very lightweight and delicate. Most figures were created using a two-piece mold. They were usually painted in realistic colors, and depicted an enormous variety of subjects including animals and flowers. Older chalkware pieces in good condition are valuable to collectors; howeverm they are rather rare because of the fragile nature of the figurines and the tendency of the paint to chip off.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, decorative objects for the home rose in popularity, but many were made of ceramic and too expensive for the average individual. Chalkware was a much more affordable alternative since it was made of less expensive gypsum plaster, and was easier and faster to make than ceramic. The first pieces of chalkware are believed to have been made in Italy where religious figurines of icons such as the Virgin Mary and Jesus, as well as other subject matter from the Bible, were extremely popular. The popularity of chalkware spread quickly around the world due to its affordability, even though it was more fragile than ceramic.

Most early chalkware figures were created using molds, a technique still in use today. Usually a two-piece mold is used, which creates the front and back of the figure separately, then the halves are cemented together. The finished piece is then painted, usually using a realistic color scheme. Many different types of paint can be used; in early years, watercolor and oil paints were popular, but, in more recent times, tempera and acrylic paints are frequently utilized. In modern times, it is also possible to purchase unpainted pieces that individuals can paint themselves.

Chalkware figurines depicted a variety of subject matter and they were inexpensive and plentiful; for a while, they were even common carnival prizes. For a long time, animals, birds, and flowers were extremely popular, but buildings, fruit, and cartoon-like figures also became common. In many cases, the figures depicted popular images of the times; for example, in the early 1900s during the popularity of Kewpie dolls, many Kewpie figurines were created.

Older pieces of chalkware in good condition are rare. The figures were very fragile and tended to chip, crack, and break. In many cases, the colorful paint would also chip off and efforts to touch it up would make it look worse because of the porous nature of the plaster. Whole figures with intact paint are valuable to collectors, and it is advised that they be handled very carefully to avoid damage. In some cases, pieces with minor damage also have value depending on the subject matter.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon219599 — On Oct 03, 2011

Great article! When my great aunt passed away, she had a box of Vaillancourt Folk Art chalkware and I had no idea what it was!

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.