30 October 2012

Spode and Toys

Part toy teaset & tray, pattern 3157, c1821
The image here is from an old postcard from the Spode Museum and shows part of a Dejeuner Paris Toy shape teaset with its tray. At this time the word toy meant miniature.

To give you some idea of size of this toy set, the tray itself is about the size of the postcard! This set, in pattern number 3157, is fully handpainted and gilded in proportion to its tiny size. Just look at the lovely gilding on the teapot spout too. The design is adapted from the pattern designed for full-size teawares recorded in the Spode pattern book. These toys could be marked in a similar way to full-sized pieces often a red, painted pattern number and/or Spode. Usually the most expensive patterns were selected for the toy designs such as pattern number 1166.
Spode Shape Book, 1820
If you click the caption under the image of the page from the Spode 1820 Shape Book it will take you to Spode Exhibition Online; you can then search on Toys for more records of Spode's toy shapes of this period. Teawares were made but also other items such as toilet wares including a chamber pot. The Shape Book page here shows the details for the shape already mentioned: Dejeuner Paris Toy. This extract gives the title, the illustrations of pieces in the set and the thrower's measurements. No measurement is shown for the tray as this was not made by the throwing method, which is what the 1820 Spode Shape Book recorded, together with measurements for the turner to work to.

Spode's toys were usually of very high quality. They were made of Spode's finest bone china and decorated in the most expensive patterns, usually fully handpainted and gilded and almost always in proportion to the full-sized pieces they imitated. It is thought that toys were sold to or given as presents to ladies of wealth rather than made as playthings. They were more likely to be kept carefully and displayed as a sign of good taste as well as of wealth. These were not toys as we would interpret the word today. On the other hand I suspect if you were of great wealth then perhaps you wouldn't mind letting your children play with these exquisite little objects.

Basket, pattern 4054, c1825
Not everything in miniature was a toy though. For example the little basket shown here in pattern 4054 whilst just a few inches long is more likely to be something for the dressing table as the pattern is recorded on a perfume bottle in the pattern books. Although tiny it is exquisitely decorated in cobalt blue and gold: one of the most expensive combinations. The gold design is produced using a technique called raised gold which was a complicated process using a paste to build up the required design in relief. This was then allowed to dry slowly, fired, then gilded followed by a further firing before the final burnishing brought out the soft glow. In this basket even the underside of the rim is gilded. Reflected on a mirrored surface it would have looked beautiful. A toy ewer and basin in a similar design, with a crimson ground, can also be seen here. Another example of the elegant and expensive treatment of a toy shape as crimson is a derivative of gold and the gilding technique is again that of the complicated process used on full-size items.

Toy ewer and basin, pattern 3993, c1824
Towards the end of the 19th century there was a revival of the manufacturer of toys by Spode under the Copeland ownership. Toy Tea Set and Toy Table Set both appear in the 1902 price list. These were indeed intended for children as playthings and were made of earthenware and were offered in Spode's standard printed patterns. There is no full record of the toys and miniatures made by the Spode company. By the 20th century toy was rarely the word in use and miniature had become more usual. Little bone china cups and saucers in some of Spode's well-known patterns were made in the early 1900s and then again in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Click Coronation to see a special toy teaset made in 1953.

Miniature cup & saucer, c1910
In the 1970s a range was produced based on Spode's 'antique' shapes but decorated in modern style. Sometimes known as Spode's Gems they appealed to children but unfortunately had the price tag only affordable by adults. It cost almost as much in everything but raw material to make a tiny cup and saucer as it does a full size one so the cost of these modern bone china miniatures was often too high for them to be a great commercial success. Also in the 1970s and 1980s up to twenty of Spode's patterns were produced on the little cups and saucers. Sometimes these were boxed and a little display stand was available.

Miniature Kettle from the
Spode's Gems range
In 1999 a range of miniatures in Italian pattern was launched followed by a range of bone china pieces in 2001 called Treasures - a name I suggested but sadly it didn't make them any more commercially successful! The more modern the pieces the less in proportion to the original full size they seem to be, so for example, a miniature chamber pot is the same size as a miniature mug.

Toys and miniatures were made by the Spode company over a period of 200 years or so and whatever date and style they are they do have great charm.