15 December 2014

Spode and Christmas Patterns

Catalogue page, Christmas Tree pattern, 1983 (colour not true in printed catalogue)
Spode's iconic Christmas Tree pattern was introduced in 1938 for the American market. At first it was expected it would be produced just for 1938 but proved so spectacularly popular that it has been in production ever since. After the company and its factory closed in 2009 Christmas Tree is one of the patterns now produced by Portmeirion Group who bought the Spode brand.

Plate, Christmas Tree pattern (detail), 1986
This 1930s design is the most famous Christmas design from Spode but there were many more produced before and since. You can find out more about these designs, Christmas history and find lots of images by visiting my dedicated Spode & Christmas page - just click here.

And what about the Christmas tree tradition itself? Click Spode Christmas Designs and a Bit of Christmas History to find out about where the tradition of decorated indoor trees came from - here's a clue probably not from Prince Albert.

Plate, Christmas Tree pattern, backstamps, 1940/1941

04 December 2014

Spode and 101 Ceramic Highlights

It is about a year since the book '101 Ceramic Highlights' was published by the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Every time I revisit the book I learn something new, whether leafing through the pages to look at the beautiful photographs by Matthew Coupe, or reading in more depth the fascinating history of the museum and how its collections came about. Miranda Goodby, Claire Blakey and Joseph Perry did a wonderful job selecting, researching and writing about just 101 objects from this remarkable and huge collection, giving a great snapshot of what stories it can tell... and tempting you to a visit to see the galleries.
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent houses the world's greatest collection of Staffordshire ceramics and no wonder it is described by Sir Timothy Sainsbury, in the forward of this book, as 'a remarkably fine collection of ceramics.'

I was delighted to find several Spode connections, not just objects made at the factory under various ownerships, but also a surprising connection to one of the Copelands. The Copeland family owned the company longer than anyone else... find out more about ownership on my Who Owned Spode? page.

So here are some of these Spode connections with a little detail based on the book and with my comments. For full information - buy the book - you know you want to!

Jingdezhen and Spode Plates: these 2 plates clearly show the strong Chinese influences on Spode production. In the late 1700s and early 1800s Spode made pieces to match and/or extend existing Chinese porcelain dinner services owned by the well-to-do at a time when it became more and more difficult to obtain porcelain from China. These designs gradually infiltrated Spode's production of both traditional and new designs. The Chinese style was constantly reworked and revived at Spode during 220 years of production; right up to the early 2000s when, ironically, the company began to have their product made in China...

Chinese Porcelain plate, 22.6cm c1720-1730
Spode bone china plate, pattern 2638, 21cm c1818
Copeland & Garrett Classical Vase: the Spode company was purchased by William Taylor Copeland in 1833 and operated under the partnership Copeland & Garrett until 1847.

This vase is a close copy of the Greek Column-crater vases produced in Attica around 460BC. These vase designs inspired neo-classical designs in the 18th century by ceramic manufacturers such as Spode, and famously Wedgwood, who interpreted them in different ways. Classical design began to go out of favour in the early 19th century before then undergoing a popular revival. In November 1846 the Art Union discussed the revival '...the art has been taken up by Messrs Copeland & Garrett'.
Large vase, pattern 6579, 38.1cm high, 1841-1847

Backstamp on large vase
Jingdezhen Dishes: this pair of Chinese porcelain dishes are connected to Spode not by their manufacture but by their owner Ronald Copeland - click his name to find a little more about him on the C page of my Spode ABC. Born into the Copeland family, who owned the Spode company from 1833 to the mid-1960s, he joined the firm in 1902 and was associated with it until his death in 1958. An accomplished businessman he was also a discerning collector.

He gave a collection of 68 porcelain objects to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in 1942 including this pair of dishes. Until recently, in fact almost until now (!), these were thought to be from the period 1723-1735; and then decorated 1920-1929. Further study since the book was published suggests that opinions have changed and the general consensus is that both body and decoration date to the 20th century. Here we have an example of ongoing and fascinating research into this rather overlooked period of early 20th century Chinese ceramics.
'The absolute finesse and beauty of the drawing and colouring'  Ronald Copeland
The strikingly coloured reverse of the Chinese dish, 17.5cm diam
Michael Cardew Cup & Saucer: I was delighted to see that the Michael Cardew's work was also in the book and you can see more about his time at Spode on this blog by clicking here where you will also find a link to a short film of him potting.

Michael Cardew at Spode 1938


Michael Cardew from the Aberystwyth University collection

26 November 2014

'A Platter large enough for the biggest holiday bird'

Filigree border, turkey centre, pattern number 2/552
The title of this post is from the 1965 Copeland & Thompson US catalogue which featured wares for Thanksgiving. Here's a page from this Spode catalogue for a magnificent design for Thanksgiving. The pattern is transfer printed (known as transferware in the US) and then hand coloured and has pattern number 2/5526. The pattern was first introduced in 1905 but as can be seen from the date of the catalogue still popular many years later. The border of the pattern is taken from an antique Spode pattern called Filigree and this was introduced in about 1823. Note the 'US English' spellings; and the different sizes of dish, referred to as a platter in the US. A 22 inch dish holding a roast turkey would have looked magnificent.

Pink or Blue Tower turkey pattern
You could though have your turkey served on different but similar designs from Spode. Tower border was often used around different centres including the engraving of the turkey. Tower was introduced in about 1814 initially on blue and later a flow blue and a pink. The later two colours were particularly popular in North America and in Germany. In the 1965 catalogue you can see that the Tower design was offered in both the pink and the blue. The patterns were printed from hand-engraved copper plates through the medium of special potters' tissue paper. This method of decoration meant that popular border designs such as Tower were often combined with other centres rather than that from the original design and this led to many different patterns being created. Tower, for example, was still being produced and adapted right up to the closure of Spode in 2009.
Turkey sets in brown
If brown tableware was more your thing then the turkey dish was offered in that colour in another design and like the other services accompanied by plates, with the matching border, with 'assorted game bird centres'. 'Tea Cups and Saucers' were also available in this pattern. This brown set has a border from a pattern called British Flowers first recorded in about 1831.

This 1965 catalogue, in black and white, was produced for the American market but the pottery was, of course, made at the famous Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent, UK whilst it was still under the Copeland family's ownership. The company was acquired by Carborundum Group the following year but still kept the Copeland name and the Spode brand until 1970. That year the Spode brand was retained but strengthened with the renaming of the company to Spode.

You can see a platter in flow blue in the Transferware Collectors Club Facebook page. Click here then page down to find a variety of turkeys and pots.

08 November 2014

Spode in 1956

Many years ago, when a student, I had very little money to fulfil my need to collect things... so it was usually very inexpensive items that I plumped for. These included old magazines, pamphlets and etchings which were very, very cheap at the flea markets then. Recently I was delighted to rediscover, in a pile of papers, a bound volume of the famous magazine 'Ideal Home' from the 1950s. The magazine is still published and you can find it here.

Leafing through the pages of this old favourite I found that most of the illustrations, whether for an inspiring article on room design or a garden; for newly invented products such as 'Alkathene' kitchen ware ('Light as a feather, never rusts, cleans at a wipe') or for house cleaning were in black and white or sepia. Oh... so many, many products for and instructions to women on how to clean, what to clean, when to clean, and which mop/brush/sponge or cloth to use. Many of the fabrics, furniture, room settings and gardens would be instantly popular today and tagged with the word 'Vintage'.

Only a few adverts stood out in colour. These included famous brands: K shoes, Redland Tiles, Brooke Bond Tea and Spode!

I love the patterns Spode chose to put together in this advert. Traditional and modern; decorated by old and new techniques. I also love their slogan 'Everyday Elegance'. At times this slogan had the added temptation '... and affordable too!' These are all earthenware patterns not bone china.

The Spode logo is beginning to look more like the one which became famous in the late 20th century but still not fully evolved. The marketing blurb is trying to sell history and modernity; affordability and class. And as usual the Josiah Spode is not identified so all three of the famous Spodes with the same name are merged into one.

The pattern on the silver tea tray is Chinese Rose - note the biscuits - you can still buy the same ones today. The pattern was in production from about 1913 to 2007. It was printed and then handcoloured when it was first introduced and this continued for many years. By the end of the 20th century it was decorated by 'water slide' (lithography). The quality was high with the brush strokes from the handpainted version repeated in the litho. For more on this pattern go to Spode and Chinese Rose and the C page on my Spode ABC.

The other patterns featured are clockwise from top left: Olympus, (on a two-tone body), Audley, Jacinth (on Flemish Green body) and Gainsborough.
Olympus pattern (detail)
Audley 1938 catalogue
Jacinth on Flemish Green body
Gainsborough 1961 catalogue
Audley pattern, like Chinese Rose, is based on Spode's antique designs which, in turn were influenced by Chinese porcelain of the 18th century, but Olympus and Jacinth were new, minimalist and produced on coloured earthenware.

To get a feel of the fifties here are a couple more images from the magazine:

Confused about brushes?
Nothing better than a genuine Woolliscroft!