#savewedgwoodcollection challenge

We’d like to give a heartfelt thanks for the kind messages of support we have received during the The Art Fund campaign to save the Wedgwood collection. Our friends at Stoke Sentinel have initiated a social media campaign on Twitter, encouraging our supporters to tweet using the hashtag #savewedgwoodcollection whilst nominating three friends. Our creative supporters took the campaign up a notch by posing with their own favourite pieces of Wedgwood:

 

Well, we at the museum couldn’t resist joining in with this campaign. (And yes, we have an unfair advantage, given the sheer number of items we have to choose from!)

Here’s Rebecca, one of the Wedgwood factory tour guides and long-term volunteer at the museum, posing with a tray of glaze trials.

Rebecca swc

Annemarie, one of the lovely ladies that welcomes our visitors at the museum reception, picked a reproduction of the Portland vase. Annemarie swc  

Another volunteer, Matt, opted for this exquisite Keith Murray vase.

Matt swc

Finally June Bonell, Museum Manager, picked one of the highlights of the permanent collection: an earthenware Emile Lessore vase. 

June swc

The First Wedgwood Museum

In 1774 Josiah Wedgwood wrote to his friend Thomas Bentley: ‘I have often wish’d I had saved a single specimen of all the new articles I have made, & would now give twenty times the original value for such a collection’.

It would be over a century later when the first Wedgwood Museum opened on 7th May 1906 at the Etruria Works. The museum’s first curator was Isaac Cook who was succeeded in the role by his son, John Cook.

A word from our volunteers: Wedgwood and Egypt.

The Wedgwood Museum, like many other museums in the country, is wonderfully supported by our dedicated and passionate volunteers. Alastair Guy, who has volunteered at the museum for a number of years, provides an insight into his current project on Wedgwood and Egypt.

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When I was asked to produce a virtual trail on the subject of Wedgwood and Egypt I wondered what could a pottery company from Staffordshire have in common with the land of Cleopatra and the battle of the Nile? As it turns out, quite a lot. From tea cups to inkwells to jewellery, Wedgwood and Eqypt have a long and decorative history together.

The first step in creating the trail was selecting the objects which would be included, not only from our gallery but also from our vast archives. The Egypt inspired objects on display in the gallery are spectacular, but in some ways the objects from our archives are more so, as the stories behind them are fascinating.

After I had selected the objects, the more interesting task of cleaning, photographing, researching, documenting and presentating the objects lay ahead. The first object I selected was a Wedgwood Rosso Antico black on red cup (acc.no 1324), glazed on the inside so it could be used and washed. As this item dated from 1790-99 it was in need of a bit of tender loving care and attention. Because of the age of the piece it would be unwise to use any soaps, so warm water and a lot of cotton buds were used in the cleaning process. However removing two hundred years of accumulated dust only uncovered two hundred years of dirt.

The cup is decorated with applied Egyptian Hieroglyphics around the rim and on the handle.

The second object I selected was a black on Rosso Antico vase (acc. No 1334). This also features a Hieroglyphic design to the rim and basket weave decoration to the base. Interestingly on its pedestal there is a Greek Key design, showing the artistic licence of the designers. Signs of damage at the side suggested the object may have had handles in the style of a Roman urn.

Both of these items are black on Rosso because this colour combination was most associated with Egyptian design during this period. Both objects have French customs labels of the period on the bases.This in itself is a remarkable piece of providence given the political climate between Britain and France at this time, as Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt was still ongoing.

Britannia Triumphant

James, one of our youngest volunteers, provides a brief history of Britannia Triumphant, one of the highlights of our 19th Century gallery.

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When I was first looking around the museum for something to research, the Britannia Triumphant (1798) immediately caught my eye.

The piece is incredibly detailed and intricate with many hidden meanings which inspire many questions: Who made it? What does it mean? What was it made for and when? To answer some of these questions I had to delve deep into the Wedgwood Museum library and archives.

Britannia was made to celebrate British victories over the French in the Napoleonic wars. The figure was modelled by William Hackwood who was a modeller for Wedgwood from 1769 to 1832. The design was heavily influenced by the candlestick depicting Minerva the roman goddess of war by Henry Webber, also a modeller for Wedgwood from 1782 to 1806.

The symbol of Britannia itself dates back to Roman times but when the Romans left in AD410 it was not seen again until James VI of Scotland became James I of England, uniting the British Isles under a single monarch. However it was not until the Act of Union in 1707 that it became a universal symbol of Great Britain.

The actual figure of Britannia Triumphant wears a helmet topped with feathers, a silk gown and a metal breast plate. In her right hand she holds a trident and in her left she holds a medallion of King George III. Her feet stamp on the fallen figure of France; surrounding her are a triumphant lion, a spilled cornucopia, a shield decorated with the Union Jack, a boat, a helmet and other military icons.

In the Ackerman engraving of the Wedgwood and Byerley showrooms in York Street, London, Britannia Triumphant is shown in her full glory. The figure sits on a jasper cylinder drum and is encased in a temple dome with outer pillars. Originally made of jasper, the absence of moulds meant that the example in the museum had to be completed with wood and was modelled as closely as possible from the one visible in the engraving.

The drum is a cylinder connecting the base of the figure to the base of the temple. Also modelled by William Hackwood, it is decorated with four medallions of British naval heroes: Admirals Howe, St Vincent, Duncan and Nelson modelled by John De Vaere who was a modeller of portrait medallions for Wedgwood between 1787 until 1810. The drum also has two niches but it is not clear from the engraving whether they were intended to hold figures.

As the original figure is now at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama, the piece in the museum is a superb replica reconstructed from the original moulds retained in the factory.

[Repost] Artisans @ Wedgwood Museum

Artisans @ Wedgwood Museum celebrates the many independent, contemporary crafters and designer-makers that work in Staffordshire. On Sunday 20th May we are proud to be hosting the first Artisans event at the museum which will see a wide variety of handmade, specialist ware from textiles, jewellery, food and, of course, ceramics and much, much more.

Here we highlight just a few of the talented craftspeople that will be exhibiting at the event. (If you would be interested in exhibiting please emailEmma.Mather@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk for further details).

Karen Proctor

What originally started as a few hand-made gifts for friends has turned into a thriving hobby for Karen Proctor of Scarf City. She explains, ‘At the first craft fair I sold out and it has just escalated from there’. Transforming the knitting skills and techniques passed down from her mother and grandmother into beautifully coloured scarves, snoods, hairbands and brooches, each unique piece is hand knitted by Karen and created freehand. Of the Staffordshire craft scene Karen says, ‘There are some incredible skills, the most exquisite work, especially some of the pottery. You can get something you wouldn’t see on the high street and the skill level involved and choice is fantastic’.

Louise Wilson

The charming wire work of Louise Wilson explores the everyday line, as Louise explains, ‘line is something that is quite often missed nowadays, it’s more about the object’. Based at Unit Twelve Gallery in rural Stafford, Louise’s work aims to feminise the everyday line by incorporating elements of felt-mounting, thread wrapping and twisting. Her quirky pieces, in both 2D and 3D, offer a distinctive and playful look at the everyday objects we take for granted. We were especially taken with her wonderful antique tin clocks.

Emily Notman

A graduate of Carlisle University, Emily Notman is another artist based at Unit Twelve Gallery who specialises in textiles and ceramics, mixed together in a contemporary way. A gentle, muted palette characterises her delicate work, from bright flower brooches to hanging collage landscapes, much influenced by the aesthetic and textures of a rustic Portuguese fishing village she has visited.

Heritage Embroidery

Heritage Embroidery is run by husband and wife team, Alan and Margaret Alcock, from a workshop in their back garden. Their nostalgic embroidered scenes, coloured in a warm sepia tone, focus on local Stoke-on-Trent landmarks using historic photographs as a template. Each piece can take up to a day to produce, from the digitisation on the computer to supervising the complex embroidery machines.

Gwen Pritchard

Gwen Pritchard’s work with ceramics began in the 1980s after she took a recreational evening course. Since then she has developed her own style using slab work and specialises in ceramic boats inspired by her annual holidays to Cornwall. The boats are designed from her own templates and are created and fired in her garden workshop. The popularity of her boats has seen them accepted into galleries in Cornwall and Oxford.

Naomi GreavesButterfly - Naomi Greaves

Naomi Greaves graduated from the University of Wolverhampton in 2005 with a degree in Fine Art Printmaking and her intricately detailed designs are applied to jewellery, stationary and fine art prints. Her most recent collection the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ is inspired by aspects of Anatomy, Botany, Entomology, and Ornithology.

Tedz fabric bears were borne out of Barbara Gregory’s love of sewing and fabric. After many years of experimenting with patterns, Barbara’s bears are made with 29 individual pieces and take up to four hours to create. The design of each bear is unique and she has created bears covering a considerable number of themes such as chess, music, football and chocolate. The fabric for each bear is mainly sourced from overseas as she finds the quality of design and cotton more fitting for these very special Tedz.

Meet the Volunteers – Stephanie Weaver

Our volunteer Stephanie Weaver is our last in our series of ‘Meet the Volunteers’ to celebrate National Volunteers Week.
Recently made redundant, after many years of working, I decided to volunteer at Wedgwood. I work one day a week at the Museum assisting the team with entering data on the Reserve Collection and there are also opportunities to assist with other tasks. It’s just like being part of one big happy family, I just love it! Each time I attend I learn something new and everybody is so helpful and supportive.
 Volunteering is a great way to meet new people , learn new skills and to develop or continue your social skills. I find that it gives me structure and confidence during this time of change within my life. There is no feeling of stress, only the feeling that you are helping and making a difference.
I would highly recommend anyone to have a ‘go’, you will only gain from the experience.
If you want to get involved you can email june.bonell@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk or visit our website.

 

Meet the Volunteers – Phil Gilbert

Today’s volunteer is Phil Gilbert.

I started to volunteer for Wedgwood Museum a few years back, while I was also studying part-time at Staffordshire University in order to get me used to working again after being ill for several years.

The staff are really friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable about the history of Wedgwood, so I found fitting in was not difficult, and got to meet lots of interesting people and try my hand at something totally different to what I was studying at the time.

 It was my job to create bespoke boxes or holders for the archives, which could include folders to protect old letters and documents, to boxes made to secure old books in the library or arrange medallions of various Popes into separate boxes for better storage.

 Some of the boxes had to made without using any adhesive as this would release gases over time and damage objects that were stored, if however adhesive was unavoidable it had to be of archival quality. In certain cases the edges of the boxes were lined with foam to stop the contents being damaged in transit and make it look more professional.

 This was also the case with the boxes containing the black basalt medallions. First a layout for thirty or so had to be worked out, then a piece of foam 300mm square was cut and shapes cut out to fit the medallions so they would fit snug into each one. This was then attached to a piece of card and a bespoke box made to fit the size, each one holding approximately four layers of the coins.

I also had the chance to help store some of the more delicate library books, so that they would last and not fall apart. As well as to label the shelves more clearly with good quality printed nameplates.

In addition to my assigned duties, there was also the chance to help out by designing visitor day leaflets and printed items for special events, so that my work would be seen by the public. Being a former graphic designer I jumped at the chance.

Overall I hope one day to go back when I am not so busy in my other studies, as helping to maintain such an important piece of English history was both rewarding and helped me to learn things about Staffordshire and Wedgwood’s past that I had not known before.

For more information on volunteering at the Wedgwood Museum email june.bonell@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk visit our website.