22 March 2015

Spode's pattern 967... and 1645

Milk jug, bone china, New Oval shape, pattern 967, c1807
Pattern 967 is one of the most famous patterns made by Spode in the early 1800s. It was first introduced in about 1807. It is often described as a pattern in the Imari style. To find out more about Imari style patterns you can go to my Spode ABC and look on the I page.

I was reminded of this pattern on a visit to the lovely Eyam Hall last week. This is the first property ever to be leased by the National Trust from its owners, the Wright family. As the home of the Wright family for eleven generations, visitors can enjoy family portraits, furniture, objets d'art and personal belongings from each generation.

Eyam Hall, Derbyshire, built 1671
So with a well-to-do family occupying the hall it was no surprise to find a high quality Spode tea service from the early 1800s in the Dining Room. I was delighted to spot it. The milk jug above is part of the service which we were kindly allowed to photograph. The service was displayed in a fine glass-fronted cabinet which, as you can see, was not easy to snap with a phone. But the close-ups of the delightful Spode pieces came out well.
Cabinet at Eyam Hall with Spode tea service in pattern 976
This service has the milk jug, sugar box (usually referred to simply as 'milk' and 'sugar' in the Spode archive papers) and teapot in New Oval shape. This is one of my favourite shapes as it has such elegance with its sweeping lines and perfect proportions. Pattern 967, with its Imari colour palette of predominantly cobalt blue, iron red and gold, is enhanced further with the solid gilding of knobs, handles and spout. Accompanying the main pieces of this service are coffee cups and teacups in Bute shape and a small teapot in Ball shape. Ball shape teapots were made in 4 sizes, the largest being just under 5 inches high.
Sugar box & lid, bone china, New Oval shape, pattern 967, c1807
Teapot & lid, bone china, New Oval shape, pattern 967, c1807
Pattern 967 was used to decorate a huge range of wares from tea, dinner and dessert wares to desk sets which included pen trays, inkwells and taper sticks. In the image of the museum case, middle shelf, far left, you can just see a spectacular inkwell embellished with a globe surmounted by a gilded eagle. The globe is decorated in the correct style of the time by Spode's skilful painters. By Hawaii it includes the words 'Owyhee where Captain Cook died'. Cook was killed in 1779 so the globe used by the Spode designers and artists had this significant event marked and was still in use many years later.
Museum case in 2005. Items decorated in pattern 967 & other Imari designs
A revival of the style and this design at Spode in the late 1800s under the Copeland ownership included large ornamental items. As well as the Copeland mark of the time 'Spode 967' was sometimes added perhaps as part of the marketing to tie in with the original design. I have known these later pieces to be found with the Copeland marks ground out to try to pass off as an earlier date but the shape of the piece usually helps to identify the later date of production.
Spode backstamp c1807
There is another pattern which is so similar to pattern 967 that the two are often confused. This other design has pattern number 1645 and was first introduced in about 1811.
Postcard showing pattern 1645, c1811
There are subtle differences - the main one being that 1645 has much less decoration around the base of the design than 967. This is really useful to know if there is no mark on the piece.

The similarity is striking though. So much so that when the Spode company produced a postcard in about the 1980s it illustrated pattern 1645, but labelled it as pattern 967! In the postcard image you can see pattern 1645 on a suite of teawares, in the same shape as mentioned above, except for the teacup which is London shape. Note the pattern is mainly on the inside of this teacup leaving the beautiful white of Spode bone china on the outside with a simple gold line.

15 March 2015

Spode's pattern 2812

Coffee cup, bone china, London shape, handpainted & gilded, pattern 2812 c1820
How much can you say about one cup? Well it seems quite a lot!

Not long ago I came across this lone coffee cup made by Spode and found I couldn't resist purchasing it. The design reminds me of sumptuous dress fabrics of the period.

The cup is bone china, London shape and decorated in pattern 2812 of about 1820.

Inside the cup showing the skilful painting and gilding revealed as you drained your cup
Once part of a service now, like many antique cups, it is separated from its fellow pieces. Made in about 1820 the likely composition of the tea service would have been 6 cups the same as this, 6 teacups and 6 saucers. Not 12 saucers, as tea and coffee were not usually served at the same time so the saucer could be interchanged. There could also be a milk jug, sugar box with lid and a slop bowl. It is possible there would have been a teapot and stand but often silver teapots were used with a tea service such as this.

Detail of underside of rose painted inside the cup
This pattern of pink roses with gilded detail was an expensive design. Not only because of the gold but the pink ceramic colour was a derivative of gold. Note these are not repeated identical roses but each one is different. I particularly like the one inside the cup, facing a right-handed drinker. It shows the underside of the flower. Incidentally the painting, gilding and burnishing were different skills probably carried out by at least 3 different people. So with the various stages of making, handling, dipping, decorating, several firings, burnishing, selecting, packing and despatch this item would have passed through many, many hands. Find out about these skills in the Potbank Dictionary.

Spode's bone china is very white, translucent, vitreous and resonant. It was very high quality and aimed at the well-to-do. Almost certainly invented at Spode around 1799/1800 it was a huge commercial success for Spode II and his successors.
Translucency - note rose painted on outside showing through the bone china
This pattern was recorded on paper in the Pattern Books (now in the Spode archive) with a unique number of 2812. Most patterns have a number not a name. This is more clearly understood when you realise that there are over 75,000 Spode patterns recorded on paper. The uniqueness of the number helped orders to be repeated without error. Using a name caused difficulties as often names were reused for completely different designs. Names, though, it has to be admitted, are more marketable than a number and became increasingly popular in the 20th century. The patterns were still allocated their unique number as well.
Backstamp painted in black detailing the company name, the pattern number & workman's mark
A seemingly similar pattern could have several different numbers. Why? Well careful examination in the Spode archive might reveal one has gilded detail; the other (at a lower cost) had no gilding. Or perhaps one was on one shape and another version was produced on a different shape. The Pattern Books are essentially production records as well as design records.
Gilding detail with distinctive Spode handle gilding

You can find out more about Spode cup shapes and patterns HERE> and also HERE>


22 February 2015

Spode, Shoes and Slippers

Slipper inkwell (middle), bone china, handpainted with a paisley design and gilded c1820
Spode made a number of shoes or slippers from the early 1800s to about 2000. All are no bigger than about 5 inches long and some much smaller. Some were purely ornamental but the oldest ones, made in the 1820s, were slipper inkwells. They were part of desk sets. Only the wealthy, who were also educated, could afford and had need of these items which meant they are exquisitely decorated with the most expensive designs. They also followed the designs of fashionable shoes of the period.

'Writing necessities' bone china, pattern 3993, from Robert Copeland's book 'Ceramic Bygones'
In the image labelled 'writing necessities' you can see a range of items in pattern 3993 made in about 1824. Spot the slipper inkwell on the left behind the pen/pencil tray. Pattern 3993 is decorated with a crimson ground - crimson is a derivative of gold and consequently a very expensive colour for ceramic decoration. This is coupled with decoration in a technique known as 'raised and cut up'. Look under R on the Potbank Dictionary for details. This enabled texture and detail to be added to the elegant and sumptuous gilding. The same style slipper inkwell was also made with a cobalt blue ground (another expensive colour) in pattern 4054 of c1825. Some of the designs of these slipper inkwells had the 'soles' painted to look like leather.


Slipper inkwell, bone china, as pattern 4054 but c1985 in a range called 'Spode Museum Reproductions'

Slipper inkwell bird's eye view showing stopper, quill holders and other slots c1820
Spode backstamp and 'sole' of pale blue slipper inkwell above
Inkwells were made by Spode in many shapes at this period as part of sets and stand-alone items. A further look into this subject will have to wait for a future blogpost. In the meantime go to my Spode ABC and look for Inkwells on the I page which will give you a link for a Spode 1820 Shape Book.

But back to shoes and slippers...

The shape was also made as a toy or miniature by Spode, under the Copeland ownership. These were probably purely ornamental. The tiny bone china shoe looked like an elegant but worn floppy slipper and was made in the late 1800s. These too would have been expensive trinkets.
Slipper, bone china, late 1800s
Slipper, bone china, late 1800s
In about 2000 some miniatures were made by Spode and they included slippers. My favourite design was taken from the Spode pattern book of c1813 based on pattern number 1865. This was called Astor when reintroduced on teaware and toys and also given the new pattern number of Y8632. Originally hand painted it was decorated by lithography known as waterslide at Spode. Both the antique version and the new version of the pattern were gilded.

Spode slipper, bone china, pattern Y8632 c2000