24 August 2017

Spode and Potters Poppies

Plate, bone china, Potters Poppies, Art Deco design, made 1960-1970
I bought this plate in the lovely market town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England in June 2017. The town is famous for its antique shops but my purchase was from a charity (thrift) shop. Those of you who read my blogposts will know straight away that this was to be one of my bargains!

You may not immediately think of the design as Spode but I knew it from a previous encounter and had always liked the pattern. Turning the plate over I found that the style of the Spode backstamp was one used between 1960 and 1970. I had only thought thought of it as an Art Deco design and I've no idea why this piece was made in the 1960s. I think it unlikely it ever went into full production at that date.
Backstamp, with Spode in Gothic-style type, on my Potters Poppies plate
This backstamp tells a little story. *In 1960 the coal fired bottle ovens were fired for the last time at Spode. Bone china was fired in the new Gibbons open-flame gas-fired tunnel kiln of advanced design. Like many of the bottle ovens in the past at Spode this new kiln was given a name: it was called 'Jubilee' to mark the fifty years celebration of the City status of Stoke-on-Trent. This was a new backstamp, with 'Spode' in Gothic-style type, and it distinguished ware fired in this tunnel kiln. It was applied in green. The style of the type was derived from an old Spode backstamp from about 1822. Company stationery and advertising material had already used this Gothic-style logo for many years.

I first saw a plate like this when I was Curator of the Spode Museum. I was selecting items from the museum's huge reserve collection to go on display. Often the emphasis for the displays at Spode were for the oldest pieces in the collection - usually only up to 1833 - when the company name had changed from Spode to Copeland & Garrett.
Potters Poppies in foreground & other Spode 20thC object (sorry about poor photo)
In the late 1990s I wanted to show a greater range of designs from different dates and was looking for objects to represent the mid-20th century. This design was a bit of a surprise. It is very bright and the colours really stand out on Spode's very white bone china. I immediately loved it.

I always remembered the design but didn't come across another piece until 2013 when working with the Ceramics Network at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. They had a plate in the same design but on the more decorative Hamburg shape.
Plate, bone china, Hamburg shape, Potters Poppies printed & hand painted, pattern X8340 c1924
This had pattern number X8340 on a paper label on the reverse. Paper labels (and pencil marks) can tell you a lot about a pot so always be careful when washing items as you can lose history in a brief moment of soggy paper. X8340 was first recorded in about 1924 putting the design firmly at the beginning of the Art Deco period. You can find out about Spode's X pattern numbers on my Spode ABC blog by clicking HERE>
Paper label with pattern number on back of the Potteries Museum Potters Poppies plate
The most spectacular version of the Potters Poppies design was produced on bone china, to a very high specification, using the most expensive of decorating techniques, colours and gold. It had pattern number R8460 which was first recorded in c1924.
Dessert plate, bone china, Exeter shape, Potters Poppies pattern R8460 detail from catalogue c1928-1932 
The description of the design, in a catalogue which I have dated to between 1928 and 1932, is detailed and quite lovely:

'Centre - Potters Poppies in crimson, mauve and yellow on a gold cloud within a gold line. Powder blue ground. Rim - gold laurel border coloured in green, spaced with poppy pods and pimpernel. Gold edge.'

I particularly like the 'gold cloud' and the 'poppy pods and pimpernel'. Good marketing blurb!

According to the catalogue, pattern R8460 was offered as dessert ware in Exeter shape, tea & breakfast wares in Ducal shape and coffee ware in Boston shape.
Catalogue page, c1928-1932, Potters Poppies pattern R8460 
This catalogue is interesting in that it has prices which show a massive difference between that for bone china and and that for earthenware patterns. A quick reference (courtesy of the late Robert Copeland) is that bone china was usually about 3 times the price of earthenware. But this catalogue shows that Potters Poppies on bone china, pattern R8460, was about 8 times more expensive than a version on earthenware with pattern number 2/7835. This latter was also made on a range of shapes which you can see detailed on the catalogue page (below).
Catalogue page c1928 for Potters Poppies, pattern 2/7835
The earthenware versions of the Potters Poppies pattern are also recorded in Spode's pattern books all dating from c1924. These include pattern numbers 2/7835 (above), 2/7847 (below) and 2/7853 (no image)
Plate, earthenware, printed & hand painted, Potters Poppies, pattern 2/7847 1928
Backstamps, Potters Poppies, pattern 2/7847 1928
*Copeland, Robert; 'Spode & Copeland Marks & Other Relevant Intelligence'; Studio Vista; 2nd edition 1997 ISBN 0 289 80069 2