25 May 2016

Spode and a Dessert Plate

Dessert plate, painted by Charles Ferdinand Hürten
I have written about the famous Copeland artist and designer, Charles Ferdinand Hürten, elsewhere on this blog. Recently I was sent images of this stunning dessert plate from a private collection. It is a lovely piece in every way so gets a blogpost of its own.

This is one plate, about 9 inches in diameter, probably from a large and elaborate dessert service which may have comprised hundreds of pieces which would also have included serving and centre pieces. Each item in the service almost certainly featured a different painting of flowers by Hürten. It was made around 1887.
Difficult to read backstamp: Spode at the top and Copeland at the bottom
Apart from the company of manufacture (Spode under the Copelands), and the artist who painted the centre, all the other people who worked on this piece remain anonymous.

How many times this was fired in the different types of bottle ovens at Spode cannot be known exactly but at least 6.
The shape of the piece is recorded in the Spode archive as 'Madrid shape, fully pierced'. Pierced ware was cut by hand, after the piece was made from the clay, but before it was fired and was still the right softness to be cut without crumbling. The hand pierced borders would have been vulnerable throughout the whole of the manufacturing process.

The quality of Spode's bone china really shines through with this technique. It combines strength with delicacy.

The pierced border itself is very attractive but it is elaborated with touches of handpainted colour combined with the white of the bone china left undecorated. It is also gilded to a very high standard using the techniques of raised gold and chasing.

Gold* is usually applied last to a piece of ware which is then fired for the final time. After firing the gold is dull so is brought up by sanding. At some factories, like Spode, the gold was then burnished using tools tipped with bloodstones and agates of different shapes to reach the different awkward places on a pot such as round a handle. Remarkable patterns and effects could be achieved.
Spode oil lamp, decorated with gold treated in different ways c1815
Burnishing brought out the beautiful glow of the gold. This work was carried out by the burnishers, usually women.
Burnishing 1902 (Note the open flame gas light)
The raised work and the chasing was done by the artists or gilders, usually men. Occasionally at Spode some gilders were sometimes allowed to sign their work. The spots are applied by hand on a raised paste - click the 'raised gold' link above for more explanation.
Detail of the raised gold with the shiny pattern produced by chasing
The chasing pattern was produced by drawing the design with a pointed agate stone. On this piece it is tiny angled lines. Robert Copeland describes it as a 'very sophisticated form of burnishing in which the agate burnishes lines to form a shiny design on the matt gold'.
The real star of this piece though is the design of poppies in the centre of the plate painted by Hürten. So here are a few more of the lovely images of this amazing plate.

*Gold - real gold was used. At Spode there was a gold safe. Up to the 1960s gold preparation was undertaken by one of the Directors of the firm in a room adjoining the Master's Office which is where the safe was kept. Here there were also the scales for weighing gold out and a pestle and mortar for grinding gold - the latter is in the Spode Museum object collection. There would be tight control of gold on the factory and facilities to reclaim gold when things didn't go right. Various members of the Copeland family were members of The Goldsmiths' Company and W. T. Copeland was Prime Warden.

10 April 2016

Spode and Poppies

Enjoy this beautiful plate for a while.

It was was shared with me recently with a series of great photos. I find there is a lot to say about its decoration and manufacture. Please click HERE> for more on my blogpost 'Spode and a Dessert Plate'.

07 March 2016

LECTURE Pots of Orchids - A Potter and A Plantsman: Spode and Biddulph Grange

I am delighted to have been asked to give the Eighth Annual Archive Ceramics Lecture organised by the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives.

Come and find out about the unexpected connections between a Staffordshire pottery and a Staffordshire plantsman.

Spode plate, 2004, printed from copper plate first produced c1840-1847
All are welcome (booking essential). Here are all the details:

What? 'Pots of Orchids - A Potter and A Plantsman: Spode and Biddulph Grange'. An inspiring story of Spode history with unexpected links to orchids, Biddulph Grange and one of the largest books ever printed.

When? Saturday 9th April 2016 at 11.30am

Where? City Central Library, Bethesda Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 3RS

Tickets: £5 from Stoke-on-Trent City Archives

How? Email: stoke.archives@stoke.gov.uk or Tel: 01782 238420

My talk focuses on Spode, described as 'Without doubt the most important factory in the 19th century' and James Bateman, orchid enthusiast from his teens. An early 19th century plant hunter who became a respected authority on rare, exotic and newly-discovered orchids. He also created the now famous Biddulph Grange Garden in Biddulph, Staffordshire.

Orchids are now commonplace. In the early 1800s previously unseen orchids were sought after by wealthy, sometimes obsessive collectors, who were prepared to pay huge prices for specimens. 'Orchidelirium' was taking hold in Britain and orchids began to be featured as art, including ceramics from Spode.

One of Bateman's collectors was the Duke of Devonshire of Chatsworth, in whose honour he named a new specimen from South America as Oncidium cavendishianum, or the Duke of Devonshire's Oncidium.
Hand coloured lithograph from Bateman's book: Duke of Devonshire's Oncidium
My talk includes:
  • A little history of the Spode pottery manufactory - from its founder Josiah Spode I to the Copeland family, successors to the Spodes
  • An exploration of botanical influences on Spode designs
Copeland cup c1850-1870, hand painted with orchid from Bateman's book, Chertsey Museum
  • The Spode-Biddulph Grange connections
  • A look at Bateman's huge orchid book of 1837-1843
  • My discovery of fragments of Batemans's now rare book at the Spode factory, its identification and its rescue
  • Designs on Spode pottery from 1800 onwards featuring botanical subjects, specifically orchids
Frontispiece to Bateman's huge orchid book, 1837-1843
To tie in with this event the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives are kindly displaying some specialist archive material for us to look at.

My research also led to a collaboration with Isobyl la Croix, who has deep and extensive knowledge of orchids, as scientist, horticulturist, orchid journal editor, and orchid hunter. This resulted in the publication of articles in the RHS 'Orchid Review' 2005/2006. Details of these can be found by clicking HERE>
Spode's Stafford Flowers pattern Y8519 from 1986
Orchids, now commonplace, £5 each from a supermarket 2016