Antiques column: Transformation of British pottery

Wedgewood
Wedgewood

We all like to think of ourselves as good businessmen, but Josiah Wedgwood was one of the best.

He almost single handedly transformed British pottery making into a highly mechanised industry, which was to supply a world wide market with fine ceramic wares.

Throughout his life Wedgwood experimented relentlessly with different materials and methods of manufacture.

However, the enormous success of his factory was due not only to his artistic abilities but also to his realisation that the market needed to be expanded to cater for all levels of society.

From 1754 to 1759 Wedgwood worked alongside the potter Thomas Whieldon making experimental and tortoiseshell wares.

Wedgwood never practised as a potter himself due to a leg injury and rather than being at a disadvantage this enabled him to work on developing pottery bodies and glazes and meticulously documenting his discoveries.

By 1759 he had set up his own business at the Ivy House Works in Staffordshire where he was making Redware, Whieldon type ware with translucent lead glazes, Blackware, salt glazed stoneware and Creamware.

In 1767 he formed a partnership with Liverpool merchant Thomas Bentley and opened a bigger factory called ‘Etruria’ ( after Etruscan pottery which inspired some of the factory’s production).

During the next decade, right up until Bentley’s death in 1780, the company expanded and firmly established its position at the forefront of the market.

It was in the 1760s that Wedgwood’s famous blue Jasperware was produced. A fine ground, unglazed stoneware, typically decorated with classical figures. One could say it was his signature dish.