29 October 2014

Spode and Leaves

The autumn colours where I live are so beautiful this year. I wondered if there was a Spode connection to this season. Of course there is! I have already written a post Spode and Autumn which you can visit here. It relates specifically to a Spode pattern called Autumn.

But there are more leafy connections. The most relevant to the autumn season is probably the pattern Fallen Leaves. This was registered as a design with the British Patent office in 1919 and a version on earthenware has pattern number 2/7613 which was introduced in about 1922. Look closely and you will also see butterflies amongst the fallen leaves. This pattern is printed and then hand coloured. A version produced on bone china has pattern number R6869 and was first recorded in about 1919.
Salad bowl, Fallen Leaves, pattern 2/7613 c1922
Fallen Leaves bowl's backstamp
The backstamp to this bowl has the Spode company mark, the pattern number, just visible painted in blue, and also the addition of a special mark Fishmonger's Company. Spode produced special commissions from the very start of its existence in the late 1700s to about 2006. It was an important part of its business. The great livery companies of the City of London were amongst Spode's most important customers. Some continued to purchase wares of the finest quality from Spode for their dinner services, tea and coffee wares etc for over 200 years.

The Fishmongers' Company was one of Spode's customers - note the Spode engravers get the apostrophe in the wrong place in the engraving for this backstamp. You can find out more about The Fishmongers' Company here.
Leaf-shaped dish, and mould (left). Note the vein detailing
There are so many 'Spode leaves' connections that this blogpost would be never ending. There are pickle leaves produced in the late 1700s into the 1800s and revived in the mid-20th century (more often then as an ashtray not for pickle!) There are leaf-shaped dishes of all shapes and sizes decorated in every possible way - printed, painted and moulded. There are cabbage patterns and shapes - you can find out about those here and also on my Spode ABC under S for Savoy. There are ferns and foliage; sprigs and sprays; oriental style and English style. In fact you may find yourself looking for leaves of all sorts next time you look at an old pot...
Garden Pots 1881
Dessert Ware 1881
Ewer from a toilet set, pattern 3000 c1820
Dessert plate, handpainted, pattern 286 c1802
Unexpected back of pattern 286 in Chinese porcelain style, c1802
Dessert plate, bone china, Exeter shape, 1949
The Exeter shape dessert plate illustrated here features a study of two New Zealand ferns, Polypodium cunninghamii and Pteris tremula, painted by Roy Trigg. It is from a beautiful and very well-researched design for a service of dessert ware. Each item depicted two ferns. It was commissioned by the Government of New Zealand in 1949 for the planned  Royal Tour by their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth which was sadly cancelled owing to the King's ill health. The design has pattern number Y7071.

...and finally bringing us (almost) up to date...a modern bone china pattern from the last years of the Spode factory called New England comprising different leaf shaped items to 'mix and match'. The design was based on Spode archive material researched by me!
Cup and saucer in leaf shapes, New England pattern c2003

05 October 2014

Spode and Incense Burners

In the early 1800s Spode produced a variety of different shaped incense burners. The function of an incense burner was to delicately perfume a room. Perhaps the room was stuffy or the smell of food needed to be dispersed after a grand meal or maybe, as people didn't wash themselves and clothes in the way we do today during this period, the delicate scent of burning incense was necessary. These were items for the well-to-do who could afford both incense and a special little burner in a beautiful and fashionable design.
Cottage incense burners. L: probably Spode, bone china. Mid & R: Spode Felspar porcelain, early 1800s
Spode's designs included charming little cottages in the style of cottage ornés - rustic buildings of picturesque design. The smoke from the incense seeped out of the chimney. All the little flowers and leaves were made separately from clay, by hand, then carefully applied before firing, glazing, firing and painting and then of course firing again. The Felspar porcelain backstamp illustrated is a lovely design and includes both the London and Stoke addresses. Note the flowers in the design. They represent the Union (what became known as the United Kingdom): thistle for Scotland, shamrock for Ireland, and rose for England.
A Spode's Felspar Porcelain backstamp
Cottage incense burner, Spode, bone china early 1800s
The full size cottage ornés were usually associated with grand houses and their estates in the UK in the late 18th and early 19th century, embracing the fashion of the wealthy for both Picturesque and Pastoral styles.
Cottage orné, Langton by Partney, Lincolnshire
Incense burners are sometimes called 'pastille burners' but this is not a description found in the Spode archive papers where incense burner is definitely the phrase of choice. For information about the use of the word perfume and incense look on the P page on my Spode ABC.  Round House Scent Pot is also used to describe an object sketched into a Spode shape book from 1817 which looks like the round cottage illustrated in the top picture. Other incense burners from Spode could be described as perhaps more elegant and were highly fashionable with many different shapes and patterns offered. They were also made in different ceramic bodies which included Spode's beautiful white bone china, 'Felspar Porcelain', black basalt and red stoneware. These were 'top of the range' and expensive items from Spode aimed at the well-to-do and found in the grand houses. 

One of my favourite incense burners features a bit of early 19th century 'Egyptomania' and is made from Spode's high quality black basalt body. It is decorated with white sprigs of Egyptian hieroglyphics - or the North Staffordshire interpretation of them at the time. (For more information about sprigs go to my Sprigged Stoneware page). This basalt incense burner is thought to date from about 1805 and is recorded as a Pyramid Incense Burner. There is a record of it in the 1820 Shape Book which you can view in detail online by clicking here; then scroll down to 'Incense Burners and Phosphorous Pots'. You can go on to look at various records of these items produced in different shapes.
Pyramid Incense Burner, 1820 Shape Book
The conical (rather than pyramid) top is the part which is made by throwing and these are the measurements you can see in the Shape Book which records the technical details of manufacture. The illustration is drawn to be able to see through the top. To understand further I have included an image showing it in its 2 parts as well as assembled. The base has a little 'collar' (broken in the one featured) to hold the incense. The top, or 'chimney', is shaped like a flame and has a hole to allow the scented smoke to escape. The square base is pierced for the same reason. Spot the crossed crocodiles (or 'crocodial' as is usual in the Spode archive).
Pyramid Incense Burner, black basalt sprigged in white c1805 and in its 2 parts

A 'Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner' is another favourite just for its name alone. The 1820 Shape Book shows it was to be 2 and a half inches tall. I have illustrated one from the V & A where it has been mistaken for a 'matchpot' in the collection records. Matchpots are a much simpler shape with no lid and these too can be found in the Shape Book on page 1. Showing there was quite a demand for these items many more shapes are found in the 1820 Shape Book including the following: Beaded Low Incense Burner, Antique Incense Burner, Dolphin Tripod, Beaded Incense Burner with Dolphin Handles (3 sizes), Bow Handled Incense Burner and a 3 Legged Imaged Handled Beaded Incense Burner.
Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner, 1820 Shape Book
A 'Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner' could be decorated in a variety of ways. One is illustrated here and looks really pretty with the stunning yellow background and delicate handpainted wild roses. Another can be seen in a different pattern from the V & A - just click here. Again it is described as a matchpot. It is decorated in pattern number 3967 from about 1824 and is a version of a design known as 'Tumbledown Dick'.
Beaded Upright Scollopd Incense Burner, bone china, pattern 3798 c1824

Wares in Spode's pattern 1166. Dolphin Tripod incense burner 2nd from right c1808
In a snapshot I took of the cases in the Spode Museum some years ago another version of the Dolphin Tripod incense burner can be seen in red stoneware sprigged in black.

It seems that whatever the fashion demanded - quaint and rustic, up to the minute Egyptomania or something more classical - Spode responded to its customers' demands and requirements with style, high quality and a little bit of panache!
Dolphin Tripod incense burner 2nd from right c1810