Saturday, July 17, 2010

Staffordshire Pottery in Stoke on Trent, England

My visit to Stoke started with a most amazing experience – a private tour of the Wedgwood Factory by one of its managers. I was able to see every part of their production. Their diversity of techniques and products made for a fascinating and instructive tour. I then spent the rest of the afternoon in the award winning Wedgwood Museum. No pictures allowed in either place. The afternoon was well work the trip!

The next day I went to the Potteries Museum. It has an excellent collection of Staffordshire pottery and allowed pictures. Lack of labels was a bit frustrating but the rooms of display are great. They also have a special collection of British Studio pottery including such noteworthy potters as Leach, Cardew, Rie, Coper, etc.

From there I walked through the town center to the Dudson Museum. The kiln is located inside one of the original pottery’s bottle kiln! You have likely not heard about them but you very possibly have used their wares. In the 1800’s they made typical Staffordshire ware. The owner realized demand was waning and so found a niche market in “caterer ware” or what we call restaurant ware. They make dinnerware for hotels, ocean liners and even Disney.

Today I went to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, which is actually a “living” museum. It was a Victorian pottery and saved from demolition when it closed in the 1970’s. There are 5 bottle kilns on the property, demos and recreations of the original pottery’s functions. It was very interesting and informative.

Stoke on Trent as a town is depressed due to many of the potteries closing and factories moving production to Asia. Many of the famous potteries have merged, for example Wedgwood with Royal Dalton and Spode with Portmeiron. I am ready to move on to the exciting city of London tomorrow.

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