04 December 2014

Spode and 101 Ceramic Highlights

It is about a year since the book '101 Ceramic Highlights' was published by the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Every time I revisit the book I learn something new, whether leafing through the pages to look at the beautiful photographs by Matthew Coupe, or reading in more depth the fascinating history of the museum and how its collections came about. Miranda Goodby, Claire Blakey and Joseph Perry did a wonderful job selecting, researching and writing about just 101 objects from this remarkable and huge collection, giving a great snapshot of what stories it can tell... and tempting you to a visit to see the galleries.

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent houses the world's greatest collection of Staffordshire ceramics and no wonder it is described by Sir Timothy Sainsbury, in the forward of this book, as 'a remarkably fine collection of ceramics.'

I was delighted to find several Spode connections, not just objects made at the factory under various ownerships, but also a surprising connection to one of the Copelands. The Copeland family owned the company longer than anyone else... find out more about ownership on my Who Owned Spode? page.

So here are some of these Spode connections with a little detail based on the book and with my comments. For full information - buy the book - you know you want to!

Jingdezhen and Spode Plates: these 2 plates clearly show the strong Chinese influences on Spode production. In the late 1700s and early 1800s Spode made pieces to match and/or extend existing Chinese porcelain dinner services owned by the well-to-do at a time when it became more and more difficult to obtain porcelain from China. These designs gradually infiltrated Spode's production of both traditional and new designs. The Chinese style was constantly reworked and revived at Spode during 220 years of production; right up to the early 2000s when, ironically, the company began to have their product made in China...

Chinese Porcelain plate, 22.6cm c1720-1730
Spode bone china plate, pattern 2638, 21cm c1818
Copeland & Garrett Classical Vase: the Spode company was purchased by William Taylor Copeland in 1833 and operated under the partnership Copeland & Garrett until 1847.

This vase is a close copy of the Greek Column-crater vases produced in Attica around 460BC. These vase designs inspired neo-classical designs in the 18th century by ceramic manufacturers such as Spode, and famously Wedgwood, who interpreted them in different ways. Classical design began to go out of favour in the early 19th century before then undergoing a popular revival. In November 1846 the Art Union discussed the revival '...the art has been taken up by Messrs Copeland & Garrett'.
Large vase, pattern 6579, 38.1cm high, 1841-1847

Backstamp on large vase
Jingdezhen Dishes: this pair of Chinese porcelain dishes are connected to Spode not by their manufacture but by their owner Ronald Copeland - click his name to find a little more about him on the C page of my Spode ABC. Born into the Copeland family, who owned the Spode company from 1833 to the mid-1960s, he joined the firm in 1902 and was associated with it until his death in 1958. An accomplished businessman he was also a discerning collector.

He gave a collection of 68 porcelain objects to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in 1942 including this pair of dishes. Until recently, in fact almost until now (!), these were thought to be from the period 1723-1735; and then decorated 1920-1929. Further study since the book was published suggests that opinions have changed and the general consensus is that both body and decoration date to the 20th century. Here we have an example of ongoing and fascinating research into this rather overlooked period of early 20th century Chinese ceramics.
'The absolute finesse and beauty of the drawing and colouring'  Ronald Copeland
The strikingly coloured reverse of the Chinese dish, 17.5cm diam
Michael Cardew Cup & Saucer: I was delighted to see that the Michael Cardew's work was also in the book and you can see more about his time at Spode on this blog by clicking here where you will also find a link to a short film of him potting.

Michael Cardew at Spode 1938

Michael Cardew from the Aberystwyth University collection