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British Art Pottery

Alison has developed a particular interest in British Art Pottery. The appeal comes as much from the social and political dimension that inspired the manufacturers, as to the aesthetic quality and originality of the ceramics.

The designers and factories of the Art Noveau era were pushing the boundaries of creativity, chemistry and design. Many of these studios were actively rebuking the machine age and supporting the social philosophers of the day who were proposing the return to local crafts, the dignity of the worker and the movement away from elaborate ornamentation to simpler lines and design.

To find out more about the individual factories and artists, please click on the links below.

De Morgan worked closely with some of the other historical figures of the Arts and Crafts movement such as William Morris and Burne-Jones and was a founder member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.

Initially de Morgan decorated blanks, both tiles from Holland and ceramic vessels from J.H. and J.Davis, Staffordshire firing his piece in a kiln constructed in his Family home in Fitzroy square, London (Circa 1869). In 1872 he moved to Chelsea where he also developed a retail outlet for his production and employed the service of the Passengers to assist in the decoration of the wares. In 1882 he moved again to Merton Abbey, London where his production of ‘in house’ pottery stopped his reliance on bought in blanks.

As de Morgan’s technical expertise developed his range of glaze techniques multiplied and by 1888 when he moved to Sands End, Fulham he was consistently producing high quality double and triple lustre glazes.

De Morgan’s glazes were principally divided in two, the Persian ware in a middle-eastern palate and lustre glazes in single, double and triple colour ways. Designs were typically arts and crafts: animals, galleons, stylized floral motifs and mythical beasts and these were transposed to chargers, bowls, vases and tiles.

From 1882 with failing health, the production of the factory was left in the hands of the Passengers who continued to receive designs from de Morgan from his Florence home. De Morgan retired in 1907 but his inspiration continued under the stewardship of the Passengers who set up their own company “Bushey Heath” producing both Persian and lustre glazes from 1921 – 1933.

Early Doulton employees included George Tinworth and Hannah Barlow and they contributed to the company’s rapid success and formal recognition through the major international exhibitions i.e. the Grand Prix at the 188 Paris Exhibition.

The studio was joined by further artists including Frank Butler, Mark Marshall formerly employed by the Martin Brothers, and Eliza Simmance, one of the many women artists employed within the Company; the contributed to the great success of the development of the art nouveau style.

Wedgwood's move into art pottery was pioneered by William Burton, who began the development of lustre glazes prior to his move to Pilkington’s Pottery in 1893. This was continued by Daisy Makeig-Jones, a local art school student who was allowed to develop her own style of decoration. Drawing on the work of distinguished artists such Arthur Rackham and H.J Ford, she introduced the Fairyland Lustre Ware and along with her “ordinary lustres” which drew their influence from the Far East was instrumental to Wedgwood’s success in the 1920s and 30s.
Established in 1892 under the stewardship of William Burton who had previously worked as the chemist to Wedgwoods. Sited in Clifton Junction, north of Manchester, the factory was initially known for its tile output. However in 1906, the same year as Gordon Forsyth joined the Company, they began their experiments with their lustre glazes and it is this work that has become the most prized of the factories output; this was a technically complex process using reduction lustre techniques and was overseen by the in house chemist Abraham Lomax. Burton was a follower of the pioneers and the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement and employed staff whose work would reflect the ethos and the aesthetics of the Movement. Commissions were appointed by some of the leading designers of the day such as Walter Crane and these were decorated by in house artists such as Charles Cundall who was later to become the official World War Two War Artist. Pilkington’s was prized for its quality and artistic merit and was well received at the Franco British Exhibition of 1908, was retailed through Liberty & Co and after a visit from King George V in 1913 the factory was awarded the Royal Warrant.
Initially employed by James MacIntyre’s in Burslem after a distinguished training in Stoke and London, William Moorcroft developed a formidable reputation as a designer and his work was sought after by leading companies of the day such as Liberty & Co and Tiffany’s. Whilst at MacIntyres he was responsible for the design of the highly popular Florian Range that drew its inspiration from the Art Nouveau Movement. In 1904 it was William’s designs that were awarded the Gold medal at the St Louis Exhibition; the first of many international accolades. In 1913 William left MacIntyre’s to form his own Company, and in doing so developed a new range of designs and glazes; it was at this time that he built a flambé kiln and it is this work that is some of his best regarded that was later developed further by his son Walter who took over the running of the company in 1945. William’s most successful designs were bold and vivid drawing inspiration from the arts and crafts movement; fish, flowers and landscapes were decorated with a tube lined technique which has become synonymous with the Moorcroft factory. In 1928 Williams work was given royal patronage by Queen Mary and was awarded with the Royal Warrant.
The “Genius” of the Martin Brothers was born out of the early apprentiships of Robert and Edwin at the Doulton Lambeth factories and prior to that at the Palace of Westminster. Each of the Four Brothers had distinct roles with in the Studio; Robert Wallace was the self-appointed figure head of the factory and was principally responsible for the modelling; the face jugs and grotesques were largely his work. Charles ran the shop and gallery at High Holborn, London, whilst Edwin was the principle decorator and Walter the thrower.

They were the early pioneers of the studio pottery movement, using salt glaze stoneware to produce their unique and hand crafted designs. The vessels range from the early formal geometric and floral designs through to their comical and grotesque vases and models incorporating birds and sea creatures and the highly unusual “spoonwarmers”.

Later production focussed on a range of organic gourd vases. Their work was highly collectable even at the time of production and they were patronised by some of the leading philanthropists, merchants and politicians of the day. It is said that their grotesque “Wally Birds” were modelled on leading public figures of the day.


Last Updated - 15th July 2018