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Rouge flambé vase, by Doulton & Co


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About the artwork

A new kind of British pottery flourished in the years around 1900, known as 'Art Pottery'. The term is used to describe those wares produced from about the 1870s to the 1930s which were made in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement was inspired by the work and views of the designer William Morris and the art critic and writer John Ruskin. Their followers aimed to revive traditional handicrafts and avoid the machine-made look. The makers of Art Pottery saw themselves as artists using the unpredictable effects of the kiln to create individual works of art. Some makers were also influenced by the pots produced in China. They experimented with glazes and shapes to produce harmony between pot and decoration. The large manufacturer Doulton & Co Ltd, whilst producing dinnerware and other items, including sanitary wares, experimented and made Art Pottery. Others makers such as Sir Edmund Elton worked on a much smaller scale.

This piece was made by Doulton & Co Ltd. The sumptuous colours that make this pot so beautiful are the result of a glaze known as 'rouge flambé', produced by Doulton and Co Ltd between 1900 - 1914. The firm began in 1858 and were based in Lambeth, London. They also had a factory in Burslem, Staffordshire where this particular type of ware was produced. A similar kind of glaze had been used by the Chinese for hundreds of years and was reproduced by John Slater and Charles J Noke, at Doulton, from the late 1890s. Like the Chinese, Slater and Noke added copper oxide to the glaze and experimented with the effects of reducing oxygen in the kiln during firing. This resulted in the beautiful red to purple colouring on the pot. In earlier times the Chinese thought that to be able to reproduce these gorgeous glazes the kiln had to be fired at a certain phase of the moon. A Chinese writer once wrote concerning the influence of the planet Mars on the 'rouge flambé glaze', 'When the planet approaches its greatest brightness, things happen magically and contrary to the usual order'. Hundreds of years later Doulton managed to reproduce a similar glaze by rather more analytical means.

Also in the exhibition is work by Sir Edmund Elton. He began his factory in Clevedon, Somerset in 1879 and continued in production until 1930. Elton was a semi-professional who worked as much for his own amusement as to earn a living. He used pattern as well as experimental glazes to interesting effect. It is said that after the pot was thrown, a previously designed pattern by Sir Edmund, which had been transferred to tracing paper, was applied to it. This was done by wrapping the paper around the pot and then with a slightly blunt tool an indent was made by going over the tracing. The indents were then softened with a camelhair brush. The pot was placed upside down on a board and a dark blue slip was then poured over it. Slip is liquid clay watered down to a creamy consistency and in this case coloured with a metal oxide to produce the blue colouring. Splashes of slips in differing colours were then applied with the fingers and the pot was then shaken in various directions to marble the colours. When the pot had hardened, more slip was painted on to form petals and leaves. It was then fired, glazed to make it shiny and non-porous, and fired again. This method of production ensured that no two pots were identical. Sir Edmund favoured flower decoration and his firm was eventually known as the Sunflower Pottery.

This large pot was made by the Pilkington's Tile and Pottery Company in 1906 at their factory at Clifton Junction near Manchester. The firm was established in 1891 with Laurence Pilkington on the board of Directors and managed by William Burton, a chemist, formerly from Josiah Wedgwood & Sons. The firm began by making tiles and then went on to make pots. Unlike Doulton, they did not make for the more commercial end of the market as well, but concentrated on experimenting with shapes and glazes to produce Art Pottery. This particular pot has a form of decoration known as Fiery Chrystalline or Sunstone. This is so called because the sparkling golden colour is produced by a scattering of metallic crystals in the glaze. When illuminated the crystals look like a mineral known as sunstone - a variety of aventurine.This type of glaze was also produced in other colours. The Pilkington's Tile & Pottery Company continued in production making different types of wares until their closure in 1957.

Differing types of Art Pottery were produced by a number of firms up until the 1930s when tastes changed and the fashion for more highly decorated pieces became the order of the day.