15 February 2013

Spode and Cats

 W T Copeland catalogue (detail), c1910
It seems only fair that since my Spode and Dogs blog in September 2011 I should eventually write about Spode and Cats...

A catalogue page of about 1910 records Dairy Requisites which were made 'in Copeland's non-crazing wares' by Spode under the ownership of W. T. Copeland & Sons. They were marketed as 'non-crazing' and so were regarded as especially hygienic - a must for the dairy. Can you spot the Cat Milk Pail and Cat Drinking Mug?

A few years later the cats went up in the world being used as handles on high quality bone china teawares. The style of the handles followed those for the dairy products. The cats are usually in white or black but sometimes painted in natural colours. A most elegant design was for a coffee set from about the 1920s/1930s with an Art Deco feel. The main body of the saucer and of the coffee can was decorated in a solid rich, jewel-like colour - pink, yellow, blue - decorated in the expensive technique known as groundlaying and the cat was a striking, contrasting black. These teawares could have metal attachments, such as silver-plated lids to jugs. These types of designs were often commissioned from high class retailers such as Aspreys, possibly through a metal ware producer first, who then approached Spode to make the ceramic part.
Belgian Lion, 19th century
Velamour animals, c1930s
Very fine, beautifully modelled figures of life-like lions, described as Belgian Lions were produced as a pair in the 19th century. They were made in Parian ware, in plain white, as well as in caneware, decorated in majolica in natural colours on a blue base. Sadly I never saw the Spode museum's majolica pair except in photographs as they were missing from the collection. A Cat, small  is also listed in Copeland's Statuary Porcelain 1882 price list. Statuary porcelain and porcelain statuary are other names used at the Spode factory for parian ware. Also click here for some links to Copeland's parian ware information on my Spode ABC. 
Velamour Tigers, 1938
In  the 1930s a figure of a stylised pair of tigers was produced in Velamour It was priced at 35 shillings (£1.75) in 1938. Also in Velamour was a rather lovely Art Deco cat which can be seen in the top right hand corner of the Velamour catalogue page. Animal figures were made too in a range of styles and sizes. Some, including cats, had glass eyes. These were added to a range made in a 'grotesque', almost cartoon, style. Recorded in photographs and drawings in the Spode archive they date from the late 19th century and were later produced in a stylised version in the 1930s. In both cases the success was minimal. I found the addition of glass eyes tended to make them look a little bit odd. (I once came across a box of unused eyes in a dusty, neglected old storeroom at Spode...and that was surprisingly scary!)

Cats feature in surface patterns usually for children's wares. Notably a blue printed pattern, Animals, which originated in the late 19th century.
 W T Copeland catalogue (detail), c1910
Cat detail of engraving for a child's printed mug, c1858
Also, in the Spode museum collection, there is a Victorian child's mug of about 1858 in lavender blue clay with a black print of a cat and a dog. Until 2022 I had no photo of a mug in this design. Now thanks to the wonders of Instagram one came up on my feed. I am really grateful to Joseph and Victoria Clark for the photographs of this charming mug below and for letting me publish them here. You can find more of their lovely things on Instagram @onebakerstreet or by clicking the caption in the blue mug photos.
Childs Mug c1858 showing cat
Childs Mug c1858 showing both cat and dog
Childs Mug c1858 showing handle
Cutie Kitten egg stand
and backstamp (inset) c1957
In the 20th century came a design called Cutie Kitten on Tricorn shape. It was designed by Christopher Boulton in 1957 and has pattern number S3243. It was intended to compete with other manufacturers' children's ware such as Peter Rabbit and Noddy but without Spode having to pay a royalty to the original creator - so Spode designed something from scratch.  Following the Spode tradition of designing a special backstamp, the pattern had its own incorporating the pattern number.

Cat and backstamp (inset) c2003
The most up-to-date cat was produced as part of a project I worked on in about 2003 using the Spode Museum's collection of Derby Figure Parts (now transferred to the Derby Museum & Art Gallery). Samples were made but only a few pieces went into production. Made from the moulds which were made from the 18th century Derby moulds the cats were beautifully handpainted in natural colours and gilded. In bone china too, this proved too expensive for them to be a commercial success at that time. Some went into the museum collection and others ended up in the factory shop. The range was called Mr Duesbury's Animals and comprised 2 pairs of cats and 1 pair of sheep.

For a cat 'in action' click here for this great blog featuring a piece from the Spode factory...