27 January 2013

Spode and Agate Ware

Cheese dish, Copeland & Garrett, solid agate 
I love agate ware. Pieces made by Spode in solid agate are not seen that often and are usually made in the Copeland & Garrett period of the factory (1833-1847). The solid agate pieces I have seen from the Spode factory have been kitchen wares such as the cheese dish here, or toilet wares such as toothbrush boxes and ewers. Also, although I have not made a study of agate wares of comparable manufacturers, there always seems to be a beautiful sky-blue clay in the wares from Spode. You can see this colour in the image of the backstamp.

Backstamp difficult to read
but it does say COPELAND & GARRETT
The piece shown here is of a Copeland & Garrett cheese dish which would have been used to hold a large cheese. It is difficult to mark pieces in agate ware as the backstamps can be hard to read. I have seen Copeland & Garrett pieces with printed marks but it is a challenge to find them amongst the swirling colours in the first place never mind actually decipher them! An alternative method is shown here as the backstamp on this cheese dish is made separately in white clay and applied to the piece by sprigging. (You can see examples of decorative sprigs on my Sprigged Stoneware page).

I remember seeing the potters experimenting with this technique, and also that for surface agate, when I worked at Gladstone Pottery Museum many years ago. You can see this technique, and others, by clicking HERE> for the V&A on YouTube where you can see films of Michelle Erickson in action at the V&A.  The kingmaker of the agate teapot is film number 6.

If you visit Michelle's website through the link above (on her full name) you can see some of her amazing ceramic work and other technique films. Her combination of strong traditional techniques with modern interpretation is something I love. It ties in with my interest in modern studio potters but also fits with Spode which, throughout its history, often seems to be a successful blend of traditional and modern.