Monthly Archives: March 2016

‘Dudson – A Potted History’ by Alison Morgan

DF2D42A8-1C43-41B9-ADAE-FEF150C3F076This very different lecture showed how a pottery-making business, founded in the 1800’s, adapted to become highly successful in the 21st century.

Founded by Richard Dudson in 1800, the original pottery was a very small cottage industry producing ornaments and tableware. Very few archives were kept but two order books dated 1844 list flat-baked ornaments and a set of figurines featuring the four seasons. However, in the late 1980s – mid 1990s the original site was to be redeveloped to become a town museum and, during the excavations of the land, 1000s of pottery shards were discovered. From these often minute shards of china the history of Dudson pottery has been painstakingly put together. From these scraps of designs, shapes and colours a picture was built up from which whole examples were sought at auctions and other sales. These included fine examples of Jasper Ware said to rival Wedgwood and unusual Victorian black Ebony decorative  items. These are now displayed in the Dudson Museum, suitably housed in a former brick-built kiln on the original site.

The pottery today, 216 years later, is still a family-run business with 500 employees headed by the 9th generation of the Dudson family.

In the late 1800’s long distance travel was rapidly developing with luxury trains and transatlantic liners carrying wealthy passengers on lengthy journeys. Dudsons, now headed by J Thomas, realized there was a very lucrative market emerging – for a wide range of china, personalized for each company with crests etc, in distinctive shapes and predominately white. This is Dudsons business now, making an extensive range of tableware for the leisure industry ranging from mugs in high-street coffee shop chains to very stylish dinnerware for cruise ships.

Alison Morgan

Designer Alison Morgan creates unique ceramic art inspired by iconic skylines and featuring some well-known and loved landmarks such as the London Eye and the bottle ovens of Stoke-on-Trent.  Each vibrant item is individually hand-decorated and signed; no two being the same, and they are equally suitable for decorative or light functional use.

Alison moved to Stoke-on-Trent in 1969 to study ceramics, and remained in the city to pursue a career in the subject.  She has a degree in ceramics and is an accomplished potter, designer and teacher, having lectured and presented seminars on pottery techniques throughout the UK and Europe for over twenty years.  Her practical skills have been further enhanced by more recent studies in the USA. She is also the Curator of The Dudson Ceramics Museum in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, where her passion for the history of   Staffordshire figures has resulted in the co-authorship of a recently published book on the subject.

Alison’s vibrant Cityscapes original ceramic art is already attracting much interest from galleries, museum shops and contemporary retailers.

“From Kilns to Kings & Castles – an introduction to Limoges Enamels” by Suzanne Higgott

On 11th FSuzanne Higgott2ebruary 2016 “From Kilns to Kings and Castles -an introduction to Limoges Painted Enamels” was  presented by Suzanne Higgott, Curator of Glass, Limoges Painted Enamels, Earthenware and Renaissance Furniture at the Wallace Collection.   She is also interested in the history of collecting, especially the Renaissance decorative arts in Paris and London in the 19th century, and is currently researching the 19th-century provenances of the Oriental arms and armour in the Wallace Collection.

Suzanne gave us a brief history of Limoges production which lasted a relatively short time in “ceramic” terms, describing the techniques used in making the beautiful enamels and the intricacies of the design.   Enamel colours are applied to a copper base and fused during a series of kiln firings.  Flesh tints and gilding enrich the surface and enlevage (scraping away an upper layer of enamel to reveal a colour beneath) often provided the fine detail.

Suzanne went on to explain that Limoges was on a great trade and pilgrim route, situated on a crossroads between Paris, Lyon and Santiago de Compostela.  Champlevé enamels disappeared in the 14th century, but enamellers made a comeback in the 15th century  and Limoges became the most important production centre for the new technique of painted enamel.

Enamels of high quality were produced up until the early 17th century, which Suzanne illustrated with slides,  showing examples of pieces made by artisans who were commissioned by the Kings of France which entitled them to use the “fleur de lys” emblem alongside their initials.   Workshops were run by owners who left their signature on their work and built up veritable enamel dynasties. Léonard Limosin and Pierre Reymond are just two of the most famous.

Suzanne also linked the pieces to the original paintings or engravings which provided the inspiration for the pieces.

There are examples of Limoges enamels in the Wallace Collection, and some at the British Museum in London.