05 December 2016

Spode, Christmas Tree and New Information

As Spode's iconic 20th Century pattern, Christmas Tree, is one of the most commercially successful patterns ever produced by the company I always try to write something about it at this time of year.

I have already written a lot about Spode & Christmas. The subject even has its own page on this blog - click here>.
Plate, Christmas Tree, pattern number S2133 1939
So I do wonder sometimes if I am going to find anything else to say but that reckons without my dear readers. Thank you to those who have sent me information and images to add to the story.

This time I am indebted to Paul Hanson who not only has given me new information about Spode's Christmas Tree pattern but has also shared details of a delightful Victorian Christmas plate. The latter is worthy of its own blog post which I will do at a later date.

What's new about the history of Christmas Tree pattern?

It was always thought that, although there was no documentary evidence, after the initial introduction of the pattern in 1938, the inscription on the reverse 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas' usually followed by the date, was omitted.

This is part of what I wrote in 2010 on this blog:

"After the revision of the design a ten inch plate was produced with the wording 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas 1938' printed on the back of the plate. The salesmen were swamped with orders. The inscription was discontinued after 1938 but over the following years Christmas Tree pattern developed into whole table services and extra serving pieces." Click here for the full 2010 blog post.

However Paul Hanson, a collector of Christmas Tree pattern, has a plate with 'Wishing You a Merry Christmas 1939' on the back.
Backstamp with 1939 greeting, the factory mark &the pattern number
I love it when new information comes to my attention as it all adds to the history of Spode patterns, designs, shapes and customers, the full story of which was rarely recorded in its minutiae at the factory.

I have also seen the backstamp which includes the greeting but the date omitted. This was on a plate which had an impressed datemark for 1940 or 1941.
Backstamp on a Christmas Tree plate dated 1940 or 1941
Thanks to Paul Hanson and other collectors for sharing their knowledge and images.
Detail of Christmas Tree pattern with Santa, toys & baubles

23 November 2016

Spode Pattern 329 & a bit about Pattern Numbers

Coffee cup, Bute shape pattern number 329 c1803
This beautiful early 19th century coffee cup is made from Spode's very white bone china. It is handpainted and gilded, all of which was done by hand. It would have been used with a saucer. And it would have been just one piece from a tea and coffee service. 

The design has pattern number 329 which was first recorded in the Spode Pattern Books in about 1803.
Detail of gilding to handle done in a very 'Spode style'
I love everything about it from its shape, Bute shape, to the pure whiteness and quality of Spode's bone china to the slightly quirky design. And especially the beautiful, soft colours combined with gold. I wonder what the design influence for this was?

This one little cup would have had to go through at least 4 firings in the Spode bottle ovens... and through a lot of skilled hands from the processing of the raw clay to the burnishing of the gold.

Here's a bit more about the Spode pattern records of which 329 was just one.

Amongst the papers in the Spode archive are the Spode Pattern Books. They date from about 1800 to about 1998 when pattern recording ceased.
Pattern Books in the Pattern Safe at Spode 2007
In the Pattern Books about 75,000 patterns are recorded.

That's a lot of patterns.

For one company.

Think how many existed for the whole industry...

Most patterns recorded in the Spode archive do not have a name - but they do have a unique pattern number. Sometimes in the early years of the factory only the pattern number appeared on a piece and no company name.
Backstamp from a Spode teacup in pattern 889 c1806. It can be confusing, it is not 688!
Even if patterns did have a name they still had a number as there might be several versions of a design. The exception to the rule was for patterns printed in a single colour from an engraved copper plate. The engraved copper plate then served as the record... unless extra colour and/or gilding was added then the pattern was given a number. See my blogs on Italian pattern - click here>.
Salad Bowl, Italian printed in a single colour: no pattern number, late 1800s
Dessert plate, Italian printed, handcoloured & gilded: pattern number 2614, c1818
Once a design was accepted for production it was allocated its number and then recorded on paper. Later, as the company grew, and the volume of patterns increased the sheets of paper were bound into books and became known as the Pattern Books.

In the early 1800s multiple copies were done by hand, at least 3 if not more. For example, a master copy was made, one for use on the factory and one for the London business. Some pages are annotated 'Sent to London' usually with a date added.

Not all the sets of pattern records survive for the early 1800s. Fragments are known in collections both private and public. The Pattern Books were highly regarded by the Spode company under its various ownerships and carefully protected as 'commercially sensitive' until about 2005.

The Pattern Books (essentially business records of the company) eventually became part of the Spode archive, This is now deposited with the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives which looks after the best collection of papers and books relating to the whole of the Staffordshire Pottery Industry. Click here for more details about the Spode archive.

Stoke-on-Trent City Archives also holds the amazing Minton archive - the Minton factory was about a two minute walk from the Spode factory in Stoke. (It's now a Sainsbury's). The Stoke-on-Trent City Archives have a really good blog about Minton - click here>
 Pattern Books in the Pattern Safe at Spode 2007

09 November 2016

Spode and Audubon Birds

Dessert plate, bone china (detail) Audubon's Birds featuring Morton's Finch
Spode's Audubon Birds pattern is a design from the 1940s but has its roots firmly in the style of Spode's showpiece dessert services of the early 1800s. The 19th century dessert services were often spectacular and comprised many, many pieces - sometimes hundreds - made for rich customers.
5 different Spode part dessert services c1800-1828
Whilst many of these early 19th century designs featured flowers in groups and sprays, the more specialist customer demanded botanical subjects or exotic birds.

Many of these services were handpainted. Each piece would feature a different subject as the centre design. Once the service was complete it would look spectacular with many, many plants or many, many birds often derived from publications of the time, such as Curtis's Botanical Magazine. The flower subjects and the bird subjects were usually named on the backs of the pieces, painted or printed in beautiful script.
Cream/sugar tureen stand, featuring 'Pine Grosbeak', pattern 1979 c1814
Handpainted backstamp on cream/sugar tureen stand, pattern 1979
Icepail, Lady Staffords shape, pattern 2114 c1820
Audubon Birds pattern is a 20th century design made by Spode under the ownership of the Copeland family. The pattern was produced on bone china and finished with a gilded edge. The birds were transfer printed in outline and then, as detailed in the pattern books (now in the Spode archive), 'handpainted by the boys'. The boys were the apprentice painters learning from the master painters at the factory who were all men. In the 1959 and 1961 catalogue the marketing blurb says the pieces of the pattern 'are a delight to see and a treasure to possess'.
Spode catalogue page, Audubon Birds 1959
The bird subjects for Audubon Birds pattern were derived from the studies of John James Audubon (1785-1851). Audubon's book 'Birds of America' was printed between 1827 and 1838.

On the Special Collections pages of Lehigh University, USA, you can find out more about this book including:

'Measuring 39.5" x 29.5", Birds of America has long been recognised as one of the greatest bird books of all time. Audubon, a self-taught ornithologist and talented artist, researched his specimens in their natural habitats, hunting them to secure their likenesses with brush on paper. His innovative methods of wiring them into position enabled him to sketch and paint elusive specimens, thus contributing to his accuracy.

Audubon supplied his publisher with life-size paintings that were transformed into copperplate etchings and printed in black on white paper. Each plate was then meticulously hand-coloured by Robert Havell's staff according to Audubon's specifications. In many cases, Audubon supplied the birds alone, leaving the background to either his field assistants or Havell. Over 1,000 birds appear on 435 plates, typically bound into four volumes, each with its own title page.'

Copper plates were engraved by the Spode engravers for the 20th century pattern to be produced by the pottery transfer printing process. In this case though the copper plates were engraved the 'right way round'. For the book the copper plates would have been engraved 'back to front'.

Click HERE> to explore Lehigh University's wonderful pages.
Frontispiece from Lehigh University Special Collections
Red-shouldered Hawk
Spode's Audubon Birds pattern followed on from the success of a pattern with rhododendron centres called, unsurprisingly, Rhododendron. Both were introduced in the 1940s during World War II (1939-1945) for the American market.
Spode catalogue page Rhododendron pattern 1959
Audubon Birds pattern would have to have been mainly for export anyway, as from 1942 to 1952, during and after World War II, no decorated pottery was allowed to be sold in the UK except seconds and export rejects.

Spode designer Harold Holdway* recalled that he had access to a copy of Audubon's 'Birds of America' which belonged to Ronald Copeland and so was able to use this to produce the pattern for American customers. The birds were adapted from Audubon's book to fit the ceramic shapes and were not direct copies of the ornithological subjects.
Spode catalogue page, Audubon Birds 1961
On the 1961 catalogue page illustrated here you can see that dinner, dessert, tea and coffee wares were in production. A.D. cups were (and it took me years to find this out) After Dinner cups - a term more widely used in the USA. The numbers against the items on the page, such as No.1 or No. 2, are sizes for holloware pieces such as a sugar bowl or teapot. The simple drawings down the left hand side of the catalogue page show the Hamburg shape.

Spode produced different versions and different shapes of the Audubon Birds pattern. Each version of the pattern was allocated its own unique pattern number and entered into the pattern books. This meant no confusion was made when a customer ordered a particular version. One of the most well-known versions of the pattern was introduced in 1941 on Hamburg shape with pattern number Y6466 and continued in production for many years.
Backstamp for a coffee saucer featuring a Bobolink, early 1970s
Previously in 1940 pattern number Y6437 was produced on Regimental shape which had a plain edge rather than wavy. Also produced on Hamburg shape were pattern numbers Y6682 of 1943, the same as pattern Y6466 but with a Marina Green ground all over; and Y6919 of 1947 which had a Celadon Blue rim.
Soup saucer, pattern Y6466 featuring  Black-throated blue warbler, early 1970s
Backstamp for the soup saucer above, early 1970s
Audubon's Black-throated blue warbler published 1827 -1838
Tea and coffee wares were also produced to accompany the dinnerware on Hamburg shape.

Below are listed the bird subjects used on the various pieces of tableware for Spode's pattern. They are listed as recorded at Spode but I believe some have been renamed and reclassified since the publication of Audubon's Birds of America, some may not exist and some may be misspelt.

Plates - 10 inch and 9.5 inch

1. Western Tanager
2. Red Eyed Vireo
3. Canada Jay
4. Chestnut Backed Chickadee
5. House Finch
6. Lazuli Bunting
7. Arkansas Kingbird
8. Audubon's Warbler
9. Bohemian Waxwing
10. Scissor Tailed Fly catcher
11. Maynard's Cuckoo
12. Yellow Throated Warbler

Teacup, Coffee Cup, Soup Cup

1. Common Redpoll
2. Dickcissel
3. Bartram's Vireo
4. California Jay
5. Black Capped Chickadee
6. Tennessee Warbler
7. Painted Bunting
8. Northern Shrike
9. Brewer's Blackbird
10. Cape May Warbler
11. Indigo Bunting
12. Bullock's Oriole

Plate 8 inch, Soup plate 8 inch, Soup saucer, Dish 12.75 inch, Baker dish, Square Salad Bowl

1. Townsend's Solitaire
2. Myrtle Warbler
3. Crested Flycatcher
4. Morton's Finch
5. Passenger Pigeon
6. Golden Winged Warbler
7. Blue Grosbeak
8. Least Flycatcher
9. Band-Tailed Pigeon
10. Black Throated Blue Warbler
11. Sage Thrasher
12. Lazuli Bunting

Plate 6.5 inch, Coffee saucer, Tea saucer

1. White Throated Sparrow
2. Pine Warbler
3. Maryland Yellow Throat
4. Blue Headed Vireo
5. Bobolink
6. Cedar Waxwing
7. Clay Coloured Sparrow
8. Cuviers Regulus
9. Ruby Crowned Kinglet
10. Magnolia Warbler
11. Parula Warbler
12. Chestnut Sided Warbler

A series of 6 'Presentation Plates' on Hamburg shape, individually boxed, were produced in the 1970s. There is no information as to which 6 centres were used but probably taken from those for the 10 inch plate.

Leaflet for 'Presentation Plates'. (The orchid is incorrectly named) 1976
* See 'Harold Holdway: 20th Century Ceramic Designer' by Holdway, Harold & Holdway, Ruth. Details on my booklist.