01 December 2013

Are you feeling Christmassy yet?

Plate, earthenware, 'Christmas Tree', crimson band, (detail), date unknown
It's December 1st so those who are interested in that sort of thing may be beginning to feel a little bit Christmassy. To get you in the mood Spode's iconic 20th century pattern Christmas Tree is a must. Designed by Harold Holdway in 1938, this year, 2013, sees the pattern's 75th birthday.

Click Spode's Christmas Tree Pattern to take you to my blog about the pattern and to find out all about this famous and commercially successful Spode design.

The Spode company produced other Christmassy designs before Holdway's Christmas Tree pattern, from the early 1800s onwards. Find out about these by clicking Spode Christmas Designs and a Bit of Christmas History.

For a full Spode-Christmas-Fest you can find all my links to Spode & Christmas by clicking here.

This large bowl is decorated with pattern number 8275 using a traditional holly border lined in green and gold. It has a spray of mistletoe in the centre of the bowl. This design was first recorded in about 1849. So in the 19th century you could enjoy your punch or, for a cold winter's day, a hot mulled wine in this footed, punch bowl. At least it looks like a punch bowl but it has a printed registration mark for a design described as 'ewer and basin, embossed holly'. This would suggest a different use as toilet ware. It's a bit of a puzzle and, also, in this case, the design is not embossed (moulded or raised decoration) but a flat pattern. I still think it is a punch bowl!
Punch Bowl, pattern 8275 c1849
The pattern was printed and then hand coloured and, like the outline pattern, the backstamp, or mark, was applied to the base by transfer printing. The same printed registration mark appears on other items too which are definitely not connected with toilet ware and also not embossed.

Punch bowl backstamps: printed Copeland mark, painted pattern number & decorator's cipher, printed registration mark, & unidentified impressed mark
How could a wrong mark be applied? The backstamp(s) would have been engraved on the same copper plate together with the holly design. It is certainly not unknown for the transferrer, in the speed of production, to apply a backstamp that is not required nor correct. This happens for example when the company name changes; a pattern is still in production, the backstamp has been superseded and yet the old one is applied. I have also seen a four-figure pattern number on a piece of early 19th century Spode repeated ie giving an eight-figure number. A severe case of absent mindedness with the number painted on twice in quick succession. A warning perhaps that backstamps can only be a guide to dating a piece and are not an exact science. It is a quirk of an industry which has a lot of processes which are hand done. A combination of mechanisation and hand-crafted techniques.

Here is another take on the holly border design on a Gadroon shape dessert plate, this time with a solidly gilded border and, if you look carefully, extra berries dotted around the edge. This pattern is not recorded in the pattern books and may have been a special commission.
Plate, bone china, a holly pattern, unrecorded, Gadroon shape with gilded edge c1890
Backstamp to holly plate in a style used from about 1890-1920