Face to Face with Louise!

Louise Irvine, our Executive Director and Curator, came face to face with two character jugs of herself when she visited the new Lion & Unicorn auction house to view their Royal Doulton sale. The idea of making a Louise character jug started in the mid-1980s when she worked for Royal Doulton. In her role as the Director of the International Collectors Club which she founded in 1980, Louise became well known for her informative reference books and lectures about the company’s history. At one of the collectors’ events in Stoke-on-Trent, England, the Doulton sculptor Bill Harper made a sketch of Louise as a character jug and proposed its production with a penguin handle. George, now her husband, was a scientist in the Antarctic at the time and Louise’s penguin collection had begun in his absence.

Bill’s concept never got beyond the sketch stage but in 1994, the Peggy Davies Studio was asked to pay tribute to Louise with a character jug portrait. She was portrayed with a rabbit whispering inspiration in her ear because of the books she wrote about Bunnykins and Beatrix Potter for Royal Doulton. Her young son, Ben, even dressed up as Benjamin Bunny for Halloween that year! A limited-edition of 350 character jugs was sold at collectors fairs in the UK and overseas. Louise was presented with number one in the edition but unfortunately, this was stolen when her home in London was burglarized a few years after the launch. If you ever come across #1, let us know!

When Louise was setting up one of the Royal Doulton exhibits at WMODA, Lori Brown, our graphic designer, secretly acquired a Louise jug and displayed it with the rest of the character jugs to tease Louise about her “big hair” days mug shot! Kimberly, our Visitor Services Manager, has great fun asking visitors to guess who it is which is a challenge alongside famous faces like Marilyn Monroe! Incorrect guesses have included Helen Mirren and Mae West. Funnily enough, Louise impersonated Mae West at a Royal Doulton conference in Fort Lauderdale around the time the jug was being modeled. Last month, Alex Miranda from Deco Drive joked with Louise about her jug in his TV feature about WMODA. See his reaction here.

Royal Doulton sculptor, Rob Tabbenor, was also commissioned to model a Louise character jug and chose a cute Tinworth mouse and vase handle. It was felt he hadn’t quite captured Louise’s likeness and so his prototype was not developed for production. When Rob’s prototype version came on to the market, Louise was very excited as this was the first time that she had seen both of her portrait jugs side by side.

Meet Louise with Michael Doulton on Saturday, December 4 at 10 am and hear more about Royal Doulton.

Through the Looking Glass Into a WMODA Wonderland