23 May 2014

Spode and Margrave - the old and the new

Margrave brings traditional and modern design and techniques together. This pattern was produced on Spode's Royal College shape, which itself has become something of a 20th century design classic, although it was not particularly commercially successfully worldwide. If you go to my Spode ABC you will find more about Royal College shape on the P-R page.

Margrave has pattern number Y7983, introduced in 1959 and designed by Michael Kitt, a student at the Royal College of Art.

Coffee can, Margrave pattern on Royal College shape, 1960-1970
I haven't seen this pattern very much but a few years ago I snapped up a bargain of 5 coffee cans for a few pence. There were no saucers and you may well ask who wants 5 coffee cans with no saucers? Well I did... they are such an elegant pattern and shape. I found them perfect to hold and serve syllabubs as a dessert, using an 18th century recipe, so again mixing old and new!

I now have 4 as one has gone off to live at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.

The design is interesting as here is a modern, new shape from Spode in 1959 yet the surface pattern is based on something much more traditional. The deep gilded border is in classical style and reminiscent of the border patterns recorded in the Spode pattern books of the early 1800s. This classical gilding can be seen in a design of spectacular gilding, done in two different ways, on an oil lamp of about 1815. It is from the V & A collections where it is oddly described as a vase! The lamps are usually seen as a pair.

Oil lamp with classical gilding c1815
Margrave is a pattern on Spode's bone china, beautifully white and translucent. Although well into the 20th century it uses the traditional technique of groundlaying for the application of the green. (Find more about groundlaying on my Spode ABC). The gold band of classical design is applied by transfer, rather than by hand as in the antique oil lamp, but the rest of the gilded detail is by hand.

Spode's bone china in the 20th century is still very fine and the translucency can be seen in the image (ignore the blurred woodland in rear of the photo!). Through the top of the cup you can see the gold band, the green band and even a hint of the backstamp.

The backstamp in this style is dated to between 1960 and 1970 denoting that the piece was fired in the new Gibbons open-flame, gas-fired tunnel kiln of advanced design. The kiln was named Jubilee to mark 50 years of the Federation of Stoke-on-Trent. 1960 saw the old coal-fired bottle ovens fired for the last time at Spode as the company embraced both the new technology and the desire to rid the industry of polluting smoke from the ovens.

Printed backstamp, 1960-1970; handpainted pattern number in red
I am not sure if my image of my cup does justice to its elegant profile so here is a coffee pot in Royal College shape in plain white, known as Apollo, from the V & A collections. I have also added a page of items available in Royal College shape from a 1959 china catalogue. 

Catalogue page 1959