14 July 2017

Spode and Sunflower and Convolvulus

Sunflower pattern c1813 (detail)
Spode's Sunflower pattern is my favourite of all the Spode transfer printed designs. It is a gorgeous pattern of intertwining flowers and foliage. At first glance it could be mistaken for a design from the latter part of the 19th century* but is, in fact, a lot older. It dates from about 1813, possibly a little earlier.

The pattern was also referred to as Sunflower and Convolvulus; and, in the 1870s, there is a reference in the Spode archive of it being called Arcadia but I have rarely seen this name used elsewhere.

The beautiful convolvulus flower with its trailing stems was much-loved in various forms on Spode wares in the early 1800s, as well as fashionable to grow. However the name was dropped in the modern era as the plant was later regarded, by some, as an invasive, pernicious weed in the UK. Weeds were not felt suitable to market the reintroduced design in the late 1990s and the pattern is now usually known as simply Sunflower.
Dessert plate (detail), bone china, handpainted convolvulus, pattern 2789 c1819
The pattern was mainly produced in one colour - blue. It was printed underglaze usually on earthenware. The design is known as a 'sheet pattern' which requires only a few engravings to fit all shapes in a tableware, tea, dessert or toilet ware service as the design covers the whole surface of the object and doesn't have to be 'fitted'.
Roller printing Sunflower pattern in blue, (brown colour is cobalt blue before firing), no date, TCC image gallery
Tablewares were made in this pattern in the early 1800s including large serving pieces. The large dish with a removable drainer (illustrated) could be used without its drainer to serve a roasted meat joint, when the juices were required. To serve something boiled or steamed, such as a whole fish, when the juices were not required, then the drainer could be put in place and the unwanted juices would drain into the dish below.

The hole in the middle of the drainer is for a finger. This makes fitting the drainer into the dish, and removal from it, easy to do, particularly if it was a tight fit.
Earthenware dish & removable drainer Sunflower pattern c1813
Earthenware dish with its drainer removed Sunflower pattern c1813
Other versions of the pattern are recorded in the pattern books in the Spode archive but pieces of these variations are rare.

Pattern 1931 of about 1813 is particularly stunning with a gold background to the pattern. Thank you to Judie Siddall and her Dishy News blog for helping me with images of this version of the pattern.
Sunflower, pattern 1931 c1813 Transferware Collectors Club
3 pieces of Sunflower, pattern 1931 c1813(private collection)
My favourite version of the pattern is one I have never seen other than its record on paper in the pattern books. It has pattern number 1864 again of about 1813. So without a piece all I can do it describe it for you.

The design for pattern 1864 is unchanged and is printed underglaze in blue from the same engraved copper plate or roller as the plain version. But then the fun begins! The whole pattern is handpainted overglaze in vivid, natural colours.

The sunflowers are in a perfect deep, strong yellow with brown centres for their seeds; the convolvulus flowers are painted pale blue fading to white at their tips, with green for their yet-to-unfurl buds; the same green is used for all the leaves. What makes it so striking is that the background, (gold in pattern number 1931), in this multi-coloured version is red. If you see a piece you won't miss it. And if you see a piece - I need to know!

The stunning effect of adding handpainted colour to a blue printed Spode pattern can be seen in the illustration here of a pattern call Group. Filling in the 'white space' around a printed pattern, as in this case of Group, is known as clobbering. Experts disagree about the exact definition of this word in relation to ceramics but this is the one I was taught many years ago by a reliable source.
Plate, earthenware, printed & handpainted (clobbered), Group pattern 1589 c1811
Introduced around 1813 Sunflower pattern seems to have been made perhaps mostly in the early part of the 1800s but no exact details of it dates of production are recorded.

However, as part of The Spode Blue Room Collection it was reintroduced on earthenware in the 1990s. It had pattern number S3464 and was produced as tableware and giftware items. It was withdrawn in 2000.

Sunflower was also adapted as a border design in cobalt blue and gold for a bone china pattern called Brocade Cobalt. This was introduced in 1996 and had pattern number Y8603. It was made as large service plates only. It was not a commercial success.
Teapot, earthenware, 2000

Teapot backstamp 
Cups & saucers, earthenware c1990-2000
Cups & saucers backstamp c1990-2000
Dessert plate, bone china, pink with gilded edge c2000
Dessert plate backstamp
Dessert plate, bone china, pale blue with gilded edge c2000
Service plate (detail) bone china, Brocade Cobalt, pattern number Y8603 1996
Service plate backstamp
*For a good read about the sunflower motif in design (but unconnected to Spode) got to Jeckyll and the Sunflower which is on the blog Colonel Unthank's Norwich.