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

13 January 2015

Spode and Hot Water

This object looks like a watering can but it is properly called a hot water can and has nothing to do with plants or greenhouses. It is associated with toilet sets or toilet ware.

Nowadays hot water cans are often separated from their original context and their original purpose is forgotten. They are seen perhaps as ornamental items but were vital if you wanted more than an ice-cold wash on a cold winter's morning! This hot water can is transfer printed in blue in a pretty pattern called Aster. This pattern was introduced by Spode in about 1832 and was originally called Chinese Plants. Many of Spode's earliest patterns, of the late 1700s, were strongly influenced by designs from 18th century Chinese porcelain. This influence continued, following the vagaries of fashion, for the rest of the company's life until it closed in 2009.
Hot water can, earthenware, Aster pattern, backstamp c1889
The backstamps on the Aster hot water can tell us it is white earthenware, indicated by the impressed crown. Copeland over the crown tells us that it was made in the period when Spode was owned by the Copeland family. There is also an impressed datemark which is hard to read but I think is for 1889.

So what was the purpose of a hot water can? Imagine the days before a plumbed-in bathroom. If you are well-to-do you have a toilet set in your bedroom. Items varied depending on wealth, personal taste and the date but usually you would have a ewer, basin, chamber pot, slop pail, toothbrush box, soap box and a sponge box (the last 3 items are for some reason often confused today). Some of these items were available in several sizes and other items were available too such as urinals and bedpans.
Catalogue page, hot water can centre, 2 designs of slop pail above & below. Bottom left toothbrush box; 2nd from bottom right a toothbrush vase. c1900
Now imagine the large ewer filled with cold water ready for washing in the morning. A small amount of hot water added to this in the basin would make washing much more pleasant. This freshly boiled hot water was carried up to the bedroom by a servant in a hot water can from the kitchens or sculleries. These sometimes matched the service but the hot water cans were not always ceramic.
Metal hot water cans lined up ready to take to the bedrooms, Erdigg
Spode's ceramic hot water cans were available in many patterns such as the bird design illustrated. It is transfer printed and then hand coloured and has pattern number 2/2164 first recorded in about 1883.

Many toiletware patterns are recorded in the famous Spode pattern books. There is also a separate set of pattern books specifically for toiletware patterns dating from about 1907 to 1938 in the Spode archive. The pattern prefix is T.

On my Spode ABC there are a few more images on the T page under Toiletware - click here.
A glimpse of the Spode Toiletware pattern books with red bindings c1907-1938
Hot water can, earthenware, pattern 2/2164 c1883
Catalogue page (detail) 'Ewers and Bowls' c1867-1881
'Composition of Sets' c1902-1910

02 January 2015

Spode in January

One of a set of 12 tiles for the months of the year
This lovely tile, representing the month of January, was made by the Spode company under the ownership of W T Copeland & Sons in the late 1800s. It is printed and then I think it is lightly coloured in blue by hand. The same design was also produced from the same copper plate but in a version which was beautifully coloured by hand over the print: the head dress in bright yellow, 'doublet' in scarlet and fabulous 'hose' in yellow and pale blue stripes.

At this period, as well as Months of the Year subjects, other designs for tiles were produced which depicted Seasons of the Year, Nursery Rhymes, scenes from Robin Hood, Shakespearean scenes and many more. Tiles were made by the company from the late 1700s until the end of the 20th century but the peak was in the second half of the 1800s. The designs began to be recorded in a separate set of pattern books, known as the Tile Books, from about 1840 rather than dotted amongst the records of tea, dinner, dessert ware, toilet ware and ornamental ware.
A Tile Book I photographed before conservation work in 2006
Designs were also specially commissioned by various customers and for manufacturers of fireplaces. Students of tile history are particularly fortunate to have these records preserved in the Spode archive as well as, unusually, some of the original artwork signed by the artists.

'Left over' tiles used to cover stillages when a clay cellar was converted into wine cellar
The Spode factory is for some reason often forgotten when tiles are being identified. How many say 'Look at the lovely Minton tiles' when looking at old tiles on the wall of a building or beneath their feet? It is not possible always to see the back of the tile to look for a backstamp when it is in situ but as well as the fabulous tiles from Minton, there were other manufacturers who made beautifully designed and high quality tiles. One of these was Spode. In fact when it came to very large tiles, known as slabs, Spode, under the Copeland ownership, was the best.

Next time you see some gorgeous tiles beneath your feet or set into a frieze, consider for a moment, could they be from the Spode factory?

You can see more about tiles by going to my Spode ABC and look under T.