Josiah Wedgwood British Ceramics Manufacturer

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Wedgwood Ceramics
Wedgwood Ceramics

Fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories manufacturer

Josiah Wedgwood is a British ceramics manufacturer. It was situated in the Staffordshire towns of Burslem and Barlaston.

Training of Josiah Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood (1730—95) began his career as an apprentice in numerous firms at an early age. He began experimenting with clay bodies and glazes in 1754. He created the ceramics industry, which is still in business today, in 1759. He started by producing basic tableware, but by 1759, he had expanded to include beautiful items like classical vases and portrait busts. He was one of the first producers to hire artists to create product designs.

Pale Blue Jasperware Bowl, Wedgwood, circa 1790
Pale Blue Jasperware Bowl, Wedgwood, circa 1790

Use of Consultant Designers

Consultant designers John Flaxman and George Stubbs had been commissioned to work for the firm by the early nineteenth century, a process that other firms later copied. The firm’s success in the 1860s was due to creamware or Queen’s ware, an affordable, lightweight earthenware, and jasperware or basalt pottery, a fine-grained matt earthenware in black, blue, and other hues.

It made replicas of Classical antique ceramics from the 1840s through 1860. Its range comprised vividly coloured majolica in relief moulds from 1860 to c1910 (revived earlier by Minton).

Emile Lessore for Wedgwood circa 1860s
Emile Lessore for Wedgwood circa 1860s

Josiah Wedgwood – Ninteenth Century

Godfrey Wedgwood (1833—1905), Josiah Wedgwood’s grandson, joined the firm in 1859 and rose through the ranks to become the director at the turn of the century. Emile Lessore, a French painter who joined the firm as a designer in 1858 and continued to paint Wedgwood’s pieces when he returned to France in 1863, was one of the firm’s freelance designers. Walter Crane (1867–c1888) and Christopher Dresser (c1866–68) are two artists who worked in the same period. The 1867 two-handled vase, transfer printed on unglazed earthenware, is one of Dresser’s most well-known designs (illustrated in Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design, 1873).

Thomas Allen, who had worked at Minton for 27 years, was named creative director of Wedgwood in 1880. Wedgwood established a design department under Allen, and Allen introduced a line of ivory-bodied porcelain (like Royal Worcester’s) in the Japanese style and less expensive transfer-printed earthenware from the 1870s and 1880s. Wedgwood relocated to Barlaston, Staffordshire, in 1940. Walter Crane, C.F.A. Voysey, Susie Cooper, Keith Murray, Eric Ravilious, and John Skeaping were among the firm’s active 20th-century designers.

Transfer printing and enamel painting

Wedgwood was an early adopter of the English discovery of transfer printing, which allowed printed designs to be produced at a lower cost than hand-painting, for a long time only in a single colour. Hand-painting was still popular, and the two techniques were sometimes blended, with painted borders encircling a printed figure picture. From 1761, products were carried to Liverpool to be printed by Sadler and Green, a specialised firm; later, this was done in-house at Stoke.

Wedgwood had a hand-painted overglaze enamel workshop in Little Cheyne Row in Chelsea, London, from 1769, when competent painters were easier to come by. In a small muffle kiln, the pieces were given a gentle second firing to cement the enamels; this work was later shifted to Stoke. Portland House, 12 Greek Street, Soho, London, also had a showroom and shop. Border patterns or bands, as well as very simple floral motifs on dinnerware, were painted. Complicated figure scenes and landscapes in painted enamels were usually reserved for the most expensive “ornaments,” such as vases, but transfer printed objects included them.

The Frog Service, designed by Wedgwood for Empress Catherine the Great of Russia and finished in 1774, is a huge dinner and dessert service. There were fifty sets in the service, and 944 pieces were ordered, 680 for dinner and 264 for dessert. Even though Wedgwood already transfer printed many tablewares, this was totally hand-painted in monochrome in Chelsea, with English views reproduced from prints and sketches; the final appearance was comparable to transfer printing, but each image was unique. Each piece also includes a green frog, as per Catherine’s request. Wedgwood barely made a profit despite being paid just over £2,700, but he milked the commission’s reputation by displaying the service in his London store before delivery.

Jasperware

Wedgwood’s best-known product is Jasperware, created to look like ancient Roman cameo glass, imitating cameo gems. The most popular jasperware colour has always been “Wedgwood blue” (a darker shade is sometimes called “Portland Blue”), an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples. In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. In recent years, the Wedgwood Prestige collection continued to sell replicas of the original designs and modern neo-classical style jasperware.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, July 17). Wedgwood. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:14, July 20, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wedgwood&oldid=1034058930

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