#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.

The National Wedgwood Pram Collectors Weekend

Following the tremendous success of the 2012 event, we are delighted to announce The National Wedgwood Pram Collectors Weekend for 2013 will take place at the Wedgwood Museum on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th May 2013 between 10.00am – 4.00pm each day.

WW pram2

Pram lovers and collectors will be able to meet together and enjoy two full days of presentations, features and events. More details of the schedule will be announced in the New Year together with a list of specialist dealers offering pram related products and services.

Tickets are available from bookings@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk or alternatively you can call 01782 371900 from 2nd January 2013. Costs for the event, including the option of a  family ticket are available on the Wedgwood Museum website. Again for 2013 we will be supporting the work of the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice Trust (www.donnalouisetrust.org).

Please be sure not to miss this hugely enjoyable weekend and we look forward to welcoming you next May. For details of local accommodation, please go to http://www.visitstoke.co.uk or http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com or for caravanners, http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk

WW Pram

Christmas Fairyland – Ceramics & Design Students

Undoubtedly one of the best perks of being a volunteer at The Wedgwood Museum is having the opportunity to explore the permanent exhibition whenever the mood takes you. Even after numerous expeditions around the gallery I am always discovering new objects that have escaped my notice, such is the magnitude of material we have in our collection.

The gallery also highlights the sheer number of designers that kept Wedgwood at the forefront of trends over hundreds of years; Robert Minkin, Eric Ravilious and Susie Cooper to name just a few whose creative legacies still influence designers today.

For our Christmas Fairyland event on 7th December we have invited students from undergraduate and postgraduate ceramics and design courses at Staffordshire University to create original works to sell at a craft market. The theme that we gave to them was Wedgwood designers and to get their creative juices flowing we invited them to the museum to take a tour of the gallery, enjoy a closer look at our very precious archive pattern books and to handle some of the exquisite pieces in our collections.

Students take a guided tour of the gallery

Students in a handling session

We then paid a visit to their studios at the University to find out how they were progressing with the project. Below we spotlight just a few of the students who will be creating pieces for Christmas Fairyland.

Anthony and Colleen (MA Ceramic Design) showed us their delicate pieces created from bone china. Both talked of how enjoyable they found the project. Colleen said, ‘To me, the chance to put the fact that you’ve done a brief for Wedgwood on your CV is great.’

Anthony, MA Ceramic Design

Colleen, MA Ceramic Design

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We loved the futuristic designs of Allie (BA 3D Design), working with black jasper who explained, ‘I’ve always associated Wedgwood with the blue and white jasper, but looking at all the new designs, I wanted to do something slightly different with the jasper.’

Allie, BA 3D Design

Noriko’s (MA Ceramic Design) imaginative use of Wedgwood handle moulds to form heart shaped decorations had us swooning. Explaining her decision to study at Staffordshire University she said, ‘I think anywhere in the world, if you say you’re studying in Stoke-on-Trent, if you’re a ceramics person, you’re really impressed.’ This was a sentiment echoed by almost all of the students that we spoke to.

Noriko, MA Ceramic Design

Daisy Makeig-Jones’s Fairyland Lustre designs informed the work of Francesca (BA 3D Design) an overseas student from Italy, in her exquisite Christmas decorations. ‘The beautiful thing I appreciate in the Fairyland Lustre collection are the little details. My pieces are retracing the shapes of my favourite designs.’

Francesca, MA Ceramic Design

Taking a detour from ceramics, Katie and Maria’s (BA Surface Pattern Design) textiles are characterised by a vivid colour palette that borrows heavily from the new Wedgwood Harlequin designs, with prints inspired by vintage Queen’s Ware design; an exciting combination of Wedgwood old and new. For the craft market they will be creating a wide range of products from children’s clothing to kitchen linens.

Maria and Katie, BA Surface Pattern Design

Printing tests on fabric swatches.

The designs of Molly and Kayleigh (BA Textile Surfaces) also sought to merge traditional associations into a modern format through applying Wedgwood backstamps and imagery onto textile surfaces using a mixture of printing and embroidery.

Print and embroidery samples

Molly and Kayleigh, BA Textile Surfaces

From what we saw of the works in progress at the university we know that there will be some extraordinary pieces at the craft market. We are delighted to be collaborating with these students who are proof positive that the creative industry in Stoke-on-Trent is still alive and kicking. Don’t miss out on the chance to own some truly ambitious, inventive and unique handcrafted pieces.

Christmas Fairyland at The Wedgwood Museum takes place on December 7th from 7pm to 9.30pm. Tickets cost £5 each and can be booked by phoning 01782 371900 or emailing bookings@wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk. Tickets can also be bought on the night. For more details please see our Facebook page.