05 April 2014

Spode and Spring Flowers and Plant Pots

 Bulb Pot,
Tower pattern, c1820
As a plant lover I am very fond of Spode pots made to hold plants as well as wares of all types decorated with botanical subjects, especially those made in the early 1800s.

Wares made specially to hold certain types of plants include Garden Pots and Stands and Bowpots (sic). These are recorded in Spode's 1820 Shape Book (click here then search on Garden pots); large lily pans and oblong plant troughs are found from a later date in catalogues from the late 1800s/early 1900s.

Dessert services were decorated with botanical subjects from Curtis's Botanical Magazine in the early 1800s and, when orchids were just coming into the UK as new, exotic, rare and highly expensive plants, specialist orchid holders as well as pots decorated with orchids were produced in the mid-19th century.

At this time of year with spring flowers emerging it is nice to be reminded that there is actually little new to be found in plant pots. Even a specialist bulb pot was made by Spode in the early 1800s. Illustrated here is one made in about 1820 transfer printed in Tower pattern. The shape is identical to those still available in ceramic and glass.

New Shape Garden Pot & Stand (3 sizes) 1820 Shape Book 
Flower pots made at the Spode factory can be seen in a catalogue page of blue printed wares from the late 1800s/early 1900s. Lily pans (not jardinières) for water lilies, one with a Chinese style stand, can be seen as well as large plant troughs of the sort which probably graced conservatories of grand houses.

Dessert plate, Spring Crocus on Thyme sheet, c1815
Here are a few links to more on this blog about Spode and connections with spring, botanical subjects and garden pots:

23 March 2014

Happy Birthday Mr Spode!

Founder of the Spode company, Josiah Spode I, was born on March 23rd 1733. He is sometime referred to as Spode I. 

A son and a grandson also had the same name, so are referred to as Josiah Spode II (or Spode II) and Josiah Spode III (or Spode III). There was also a Josiah Spode IV but he was not directly involved with the company.

Spode I  was born in Lower Lane near Stoke in North Staffordshire, England.

Josiah Spode I was an important figure in the history of the North Staffordshire pottery industry and, together with his sons Josiah Spode II and Samuel, a generous benefactor to local good causes.

You can find out more about the owners of the Spode company on my page Who Owned Spode?

10 March 2014

Spode and Variations on Indian Sporting Pattern

Visiting Aberystwyth University Ceramic Collection & Archive is a must for anyone who loves ceramics. Looking at their exhibition last week one of the pots immediately caught my eye. It was a large earthenware dish by Philip Eglin entitled 'The Bear Hunt' which he made for the British Ceramics Biennial 2011. This biennial event is held at the former Spode factory in Stoke. Eglin's dish is described as being 'based on a 19th century Spode factory design'.

Spode's design is called Indian Sporting which was introduced in about 1815. It is a multi-scene pattern with a different image for each of the different shapes within a service. Transfer printed, it required many different hand engraved copper plates to produce a whole set of tableware. This may well may have been a challenge for Spode's engravers who had probably never seen some of these exotic animals 'in the flesh'. The piece used by Eglin was the 10 inch plate printed with a scene called, by Spode, 'Death of the Bear'.
Left: Eglin 2011; Top Right: Spode plate 'Death of the Bear' c1815 (detail);
Bottom Right: Source print c1807
The inspiration for Eglin's 2011 piece obviously comes from the Spode design but in turn the Spode design was not their own original and the scenes were taken from a publication called 'Oriental Field Sports, Wild Sports of the East' written by Captain Thomas Williamson and illustrated by Samuel Howitt. Probably published around 1807/1809 in 2 volumes it was originally produced in 20 parts between about 1805 and 1807.

This seems a popular design for modern artists to use as inspiration. The same Spode early 19th century plate was used by Phoebe Cummings in the British Ceramics Biennial 2013 who created an installation adjacent to an example of the Spode piece.
After the Death of the Bear, 2013. Clay, cement, steel, wire, and polythene, 7 x 5 x 3.5 meters.
View of work at the British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-Trent, 2013
For their transfer printed Indian Sporting pattern Spode used adaptations from 17 of the original prints from 'Oriental Field Sports, Wild Sports of the East' plus sections of others to create the wonderful border pattern. The name of the scene is often printed on the back of the pieces. However, the Spode description is not always identical to that used in the original publication. Notice also, on the image of the sauce tureen below, the handle and knob sheet pattern which is used with this design which is the same as for Italian pattern.

It may seem odd to us today to see images of dead and dying animals on our dinnerware but it seems to have been quite acceptable, not only in 1815, but throughout the 19th century as well as into the 20th. Spode produced several patterns featuring hunting scenes. There were also patterns which featured dead/dying birds (these in some of the most expensive combinations of ceramic body, colour and decoration) and cock fighting. Many of these designs would just not be acceptable nor desirable today.
A backstamp from Spode's Indian Sporting pattern c1815
Many of the centres used on Indian Sporting pattern can be seen on Spode Exhibition Online.

Indian Sporting pattern was reintroduced in the late 1990s by Spode as part of 'The Blue Room Collection'.
Spode sauce tureen and stand featuring 'The Dead Hog'.

14 February 2014

Spode and a Pair of Parian Statuettes

This Parian figure from the Spode factory, under the ownership of the Copeland family was first produced in about 1882.

A huge range of figures was produced by the company. There is strong evidence that the body was invented at the factory under the ownership of Copeland & Garrett. Initially it was known as porcelain statuary and/or statuary porcelain. It later became widely known as Parian ware. This beautiful new body was described, in about 1845, by sculptor John Gibson RA (1790-1866) as 'Decidedly the best material next to Marble'. He gave permission for his famous full-size marble sculpture Narcissus to be produced by the company in this new Parian body in 1845. What a coup...

At Spode individual figures were known a statuettes. Often there was a pair to a figure which was called a companion - particularly appropriate for a figure called Love.

Robert Copeland researched the Parian ware production from the Spode factory in great detail over many, many years and I learnt so much from him and enjoyed assisting him in his quest for knowledge in the subject. Often his research led him to the story of sculptor, the relevant Greek myth, novel or real life biography to a statuette, a group or a bust. But in this case it seems he found no detail other than a date of introduction and some prices. I have found nothing further.

You can find out all about the Parian figures of all types in his book Parian: Copeland's Statuary Porcelain. Click on the book title and it will take you to my booklist for full details.

For Valentines' Day I thought it was appropriate to show Love and Companion to Love together here.

Unlike many of the Parian figures they are not classical in design but it is not hard to imagine this sentimental pair on a Victorian mantelpiece.

I don't know why but it makes me smile to see that Love is 15 shillings in 1884. What a bargain! By 1895 I am afraid Love had risen in price to 18 shillings.

Robert Copeland (1925-2010) in the factory museum
with his beloved Parian figures, 1985

01 February 2014

Spode and Patterns in Panels

Cup, saucer, & plate in pattern 1/4873
bird's eye view
This bone china cup, saucer and plate attracted my attention when I caught sight of it tucked away on a shelf on an antique stall. It looked familiar, and although I guessed it was from the late 19th century, it reminded me of designs from the Regency period. I confess I really wasn't thinking 'Spode factory' so imagine my surprise when it was, as the Copeland mark clearly indicated.

I think of this design style as 'patterns in panels' and they appear in various guises, in and out of fashion, throughout the whole of the 19th and 20th century, in production from the Spode factory. Sometimes the panels in the pattern are straight, other times twisted or 'swirled' as in this design.

I thought it might be interesting to look at my cup, saucer and plate in a bit more detail (yes, it did become mine). It is a blue printed pattern with gilded detail. If it was plain printed ie with no extra decoration, then it is unlikely to have had a pattern number, as the copper plate from which it was printed served as the record. But the addition of the gilding means it was allocated a unique number. The pattern number is clearly visible as part of the backstamp. It is 1/4873 and in the image of the backstamp you can also see the workman's, probably the gilder, which at this period was likely to be a man.

Pattern 1/4873 was first recorded in about 1886. There are impressed datemarks on the pieces of J over 89 and M over 89 which are the datemarks for January and March 1889. I did a bit more research in the Spode archive (which is now at the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives) and found that the pattern was not illustrated in the pattern books but had a written entry: 'China BT pattern Plain Walpole shape as 1/4872 But printed in Cobalt blue in place of Red'. This written entry tells us a lot and I thought I would detail it here so you can see how much can be gleaned by referring to the famous Spode pattern books which run from c1800 to c1997.

'China' means a bone china pattern, also indicated by the prefix 1/ which is a series of patterns usually referred to as the '1 over numbers'.

'BT' indicates a Breakfast Tea pattern but I may be wrong. It is a sensible guess though, for example, it was a long time before I discovered that AD meant After Dinner in 'AD coffee cup'. These codes are not always written down as, generally, everyone who needed to know at the time, knew.

'Plain Walpole shape' tells us the shape of the ware for this pattern number... or does it? My 3 pieces are the same pattern with the same number but on Chelsea shape.

'as 1/4872 But printed in Cobalt blue in place of Red' tells us that this is
'Chelsea handle half traced'.
exactly the same as pattern 1/4872 but it is printed in cobalt blue instead of red; and when you look up that other pattern number, this time it is illustrated. 

There are also some other notes and one which is relevant to my pieces is 'Chelsea handle half traced'. This described the detail of the style of decoration for the handle by the gilder who is to trace it ie add a delicate and tapering line of gold on the outside edges of the handle which just goes halfway round. There is also an instruction that the gold is to be burnished. Gold is dull when it has been fired and can be finished in different ways depending on cost and desire. Burnishing with tools tipped with agates and bloodstone produced the desired effect. This skilled job was done by burnishers.

The printed 'COPELAND'S CHINA' backstamp in the style on my pieces was used from about 1862-1891.

I have to confess this is not the most perfect piece of ware from the Spode factory I have seen. The bone china body is lovely but there are errors in the printing. In the image of the handle you can see where part of the print has caught on the handle making a blemish. Most confusingly of all this design was not meant for the fluted Chelsea shape. The engravings don't fit it correctly and the application of the transfer could definitely be better. The fact that the engravings were for a different shape must have made it difficult.
Cup detail showing errors in the application of the print
It would seem that something has gone wrong between conception and execution as this design was originally intended for a plain shape not a moulded, fluted one. The design itself incorporates panels which swirl and it just doesn't seem to fit the Chelsea shape with its straight flutes. Nevertheless I still rather like it even if it does not quite come up to the usual Spode very high standards!

I have included an image of some older patterns which could come under the title of 'patterns in panels'. Clockwise from top left they are: cup pattern 312 c1803; fly handled cup and stand pattern 2276 c1816; teaware pattern 2477 c1816; teaware pattern 2616 c1817; dessert ware pattern 2888 c1820.

There is pattern in the modern era which shows how 20th century production still used the older patterns as a strong influence. This is Provence pattern designed by Pat Albeck for Spode on the Royal College shape. It has pattern number Y7843 introduced in 1958. Royal College shape was designed by Neil French and David White of the Royal College of Art with Spode, under the Copeland ownership, for the A Room of our Own exhibition in 1958, following a drive by the college for stronger links between student designers and industry. At the time of this design Albeck was a student at the Royal College of Art and went on to a glittering career in textile design. She is closely associated with the famous Emma Bridgewater ceramics company in Stoke-on-Trent as she is mother to Matthew Rice, a well-known designer, and he is married to Emma!

Provence pattern 1959 china catalogue

12 January 2014

Spode and an Odd Little Mug

Mug (probably Spode) 3" high, c1800
I bought this mug some time ago in a little interior design shop in my local town. Amongst the cushions and new stuff, it was looking lonely, unloved and had a huge crack near the handle. So it came home with me... and you can't really see the damage from this angle.

It was the beautiful lavender-blue colour of the decoration which particularly attracted me but I also thought it was early 19th century. It wasn't until a few years later I realised it was probably-actually-almost-certainly-possibly antique Spode!

The design looks slightly odd to the modern eye. The sprigged decoration looks as though it is designed to 'hang' from a top rim rather than standing upright but there is a charm about it. As well as its damage from a hard life there are manufacturing faults, such as the colour of the blue ornamentation flowing and staining the white. There is also a little yellowy-brown stain on the white probably from iron contamination. All this reminding us that making pottery is not easy particularly when a manufacturer is striving for a pure white body.

The detail shown here of a brown jug with light blue sprigs in the same design suggests that my mug might be Spode. There are no marks at all on mine but the jug is marked Spode. It also has the same moulded band around the bottom of the piece. Other Spode mugs in different designs and colours have the same shaped handle as my mug.

Spode jug (detail), c1800
It is quite possible my little mug was made by another manufacturer - I don't really mind as I like it whoever made it. Careful observation of pieces helps to give attribution to unmarked objects from the early 1800s but as manufacturers invariably imitated each other and sometimes bought items, such as sprig moulds, at bankrupt sales of failed manufacturers, attribution is not always straightforward.
No marks on my mug (top);
impressed Spode on the brown jug (bottom)
Wooden tray of old Spode, Copeland & Garrett, and Copeland
sprig moulds awaiting careful cleaning, research and cataloguing,
Spode Museum 2006