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
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*Copeland, Robert; 'Spode & Copeland Marks & Other Relevant Intelligence'; Studio Vista; 2nd edition 1997 ISBN 0 289 80069 2

14 July 2017

Spode and Sunflower and Convolvulus

Sunflower pattern c1813 (detail)
Spode's Sunflower pattern is my favourite of all the Spode transfer printed designs. It is a gorgeous pattern of intertwining flowers and foliage. At first glance it could be mistaken for a design from the latter part of the 19th century* but is, in fact, a lot older. It dates from about 1813, possibly a little earlier.

The pattern was also referred to as Sunflower and Convolvulus; and, in the 1870s, there is a reference in the Spode archive of it being called Arcadia but I have rarely seen this name used elsewhere.

The beautiful convolvulus flower with its trailing stems was much-loved in various forms on Spode wares in the early 1800s, as well as fashionable to grow. However the name was dropped in the modern era as the plant was later regarded, by some, as an invasive, pernicious weed in the UK. Weeds were not felt suitable to market the reintroduced design in the late 1990s and the pattern is now usually known as simply Sunflower.
Dessert plate (detail), bone china, handpainted convolvulus, pattern 2789 c1819
The pattern was mainly produced in one colour - blue. It was printed underglaze usually on earthenware. The design is known as a 'sheet pattern' which requires only a few engravings to fit all shapes in a tableware, tea, dessert or toilet ware service as the design covers the whole surface of the object and doesn't have to be 'fitted'.
Roller printing Sunflower pattern in blue, (brown colour is cobalt blue before firing), no date, TCC image gallery
Tablewares were made in this pattern in the early 1800s including large serving pieces. The large dish with a removable drainer (illustrated) could be used without its drainer to serve a roasted meat joint, when the juices were required. To serve something boiled or steamed, such as a whole fish, when the juices were not required, then the drainer could be put in place and the unwanted juices would drain into the dish below.

The hole in the middle of the drainer is for a finger. This makes fitting the drainer into the dish, and removal from it, easy to do, particularly if it was a tight fit.
Earthenware dish & removable drainer Sunflower pattern c1813
Earthenware dish with its drainer removed Sunflower pattern c1813
Other versions of the pattern are recorded in the pattern books in the Spode archive but pieces of these variations are rare.

Pattern 1931 of about 1813 is particularly stunning with a gold background to the pattern. Thank you to Judie Siddall and her Dishy News blog for helping me with images of this version of the pattern.
Sunflower, pattern 1931 c1813 Transferware Collectors Club
3 pieces of Sunflower, pattern 1931 c1813(private collection)
My favourite version of the pattern is one I have never seen other than its record on paper in the pattern books. It has pattern number 1864 again of about 1813. So without a piece all I can do it describe it for you.

The design for pattern 1864 is unchanged and is printed underglaze in blue from the same engraved copper plate or roller as the plain version. But then the fun begins! The whole pattern is handpainted overglaze in vivid, natural colours.

The sunflowers are in a perfect deep, strong yellow with brown centres for their seeds; the convolvulus flowers are painted pale blue fading to white at their tips, with green for their yet-to-unfurl buds; the same green is used for all the leaves. What makes it so striking is that the background, (gold in pattern number 1931), in this multi-coloured version is red. If you see a piece you won't miss it. And if you see a piece - I need to know!

The stunning effect of adding handpainted colour to a blue printed Spode pattern can be seen in the illustration here of a pattern call Group. Filling in the 'white space' around a printed pattern, as in this case of Group, is known as clobbering. Experts disagree about the exact definition of this word in relation to ceramics but this is the one I was taught many years ago by a reliable source.
Plate, earthenware, printed in blue Group pattern c1809

Plate, earthenware, printed & handpainted (clobbered), Group pattern 1589 c1811
Introduced around 1813 Sunflower pattern seems to have been made perhaps mostly in the early part of the 1800s but no exact details of it dates of production are recorded.

However, as part of The Spode Blue Room Collection it was reintroduced on earthenware in the 1990s. It had pattern number S3464 and was produced as tableware and giftware items. It was withdrawn in 2000.

Sunflower was also adapted as a border design in cobalt blue and gold for a bone china pattern called Brocade Cobalt. This was introduced in 1996 and had pattern number Y8603. It was made as large service plates only. It was not a commercial success.
Teapot, earthenware, 2000

Teapot backstamp 
Cups & saucers, earthenware c1990-2000
Cups & saucers backstamp c1990-2000
Dessert plate, bone china, pink with gilded edge c2000
Dessert plate backstamp
Dessert plate, bone china, pale blue with gilded edge c2000
Service plate (detail) bone china, Brocade Cobalt, pattern number Y8603 1996
Service plate backstamp
*For a good read about the sunflower motif in design (but unconnected to Spode) got to Jeckyll and the Sunflower which is on the blog Colonel Unthank's Norwich.