Arts & Crafts

Art Pottery

After London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, advocates of the Arts and Crafts movement disparaged ornate factory-made porcelain. Design reformers, such as William Morris, encouraged a return to pre-industrial production methods and inspired artists in other media to work in ceramics. Sculptors, including George Tinworth and Robert Wallace Martin, modeled in terracotta which was more affordable than carving in stone or casting in bronze. Painters worked on glazed tile pictures which were very popular in Victorian homes as they could be cleaned easily in the sooty interiors caused by candles, coal fires, and gas lights.

At Minton’s Art Pottery in London, young women were employed to decorate vases, plaques, and tiles from 1870 until the studio was destroyed by fire in 1875. Pottery painting also became very popular with ladies of leisure in the late 19th century. Chinamania was satirized by popular cartoonists and the new aesthetes were ridiculed in Patience, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

Glazed Expressions

Many sculptors turned to clay as a less costly medium of artistic expression than bronze or stone. In 1877, the Martin Brothers set up a pottery studio in South London producing some of the most bizarre designs of the era. Robert Wallace Martin, a sculptor by training, is known for his grimacing face jugs and quirky bird jars, caricaturing personalities of the day. Walter and Edwin Martin made vases decorated with flowers, reptiles and monstrous fish. Walter Martin was in charge of throwing the vases and managing the salt-glazed stoneware firings. Edwin Martin decorated the salt-glazed stoneware vases with incised designs of flowers, reptiles and fabulous fish. Supposedly his underwater scenes were inspired by fanciful accounts of microscopic life in the polluted River Thames. Later works took inspiration from marine and plant life including sea urchins and gourds.

Magic of Moorcroft

In 1897, William Moorcroft began working for the Macintyre factory in Stoke-on-Trent, where he perfected a decorating technique known as tube-lining. His Florian Wares, featuring foliate motifs in raised slip, were sold internationally by luxury stores including Tiffany’s of New York and Liberty’s of London. In 1913, Moorcroft opened his own factory in Cobridge and more than a century later it continues as a thriving business in the same location. Today a team of artists produce hand-made and hand-decorated art pottery using the traditional techniques developed by William Moorcroft, including slip-casting, lathe-turning and tube-lining.
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