A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dudson Majolica

Dozens of companies potted majolica during the second half of the Nineteenth Century.  For most it was a sideline to their regular business. As fashions changed they dropped out of production without really making a mark with their majolica wares and as such are rarely discussed in any survey of majolica. Dudson pottery was one of these small potters.

In 1800 Richard Dudson founded the Dudson pottery on Broad Street in Hanley. So began a 200+ year old successful business run by several generations of the Dudson family. Dudson specialized in earthenware, salt glaze, parian and especially Wedgwood type jasperware. They also made majolica.

Interior of the Dudson Pottery workroom

The craftsmanship at the pottery was always first rate. Their jasper work was dependable and often quite beautiful with a distinctive style. Unfortunately their concentration on jasper, a form that was invented by Wedgwood, unfairly branded them a reputation as "the poor man's Wedgwood."

In 1881 the company announced the beginning of majolica production. According to Audrey Dudson, whose books are considered the definitive works on the company, the most popular majolica made by the company was mottled green majolica such as the twisted rope example shown below. While majolica was not a major line for Dudson this particular line of brown and green mottled ware—known as "bronze green" within the company—was a consistant seller for them. 

Image from Audrey Dudson's seminal book on the Dudson Pottery

Trade ad for Dudson Pottery

The company also made full color examples of their most popular salt glaze and parian designs such as the tulip pitcher shown below.

Other majolica designs sold by the company remained faithful to their jasper ware kin.

Spittoons in both Rose and Begonia designs are also described in the literature.
Over the years we have seen many pieces identified as Dudson majolica but without marks or other corroborative evidence we are reluctant to list them here.

Majolica production in the popular bronze green glaze continued at Dudson through the first third of the Twentieth Century. After the start of WW2 the company completely ceased majolica production. 

The company remains active today in the production of utilitarian wares for the hospitality industry.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Copeland Majolica Date Codes

We were asked recently if majolica manufacturing companies besides Minton, Wedgwood and George Jones dated their pieces. The only other manufacturer that we know of is Copeland /Spode. Theirs was a much simpler coding method than that of Jones, Minton or Wedgwood and is extended to dating their fine china as well.

From 1870 to 1963 impressed date marks were used on Copeland pieces. On majolica and decorated earthenware they were used from 1870 until 1957. On bone china and other fine china they were used from 1870 until 1963. The date marking continued after this point but since the period of majolica manufacture concluded around 1920 we will not discuss these other codes here.

The method of marking was a very simple one. It took the form of a letter above a two digit number impressed into the base. The letter referred to the month of manufacture and followed the following code: J was used for January; F for February; M for March; A for April; Y for May; U for June; L for July; T for August; S for September; O for October; N for November and D for December. One should not confused these letters for others one might find impressed in the clay. These other letters most likely refer to place of manufacturer or catalog style. The only letters that count are those directly above a two digit number.

The numbers refer to the year of manufacture. Consider the example below impressed into the base of a Copeland Lotus pitcher. The L on the base refers to the month of July and the 80 refers to the year of 1880. Hence, we know this particular Lotus pitcher was manufactured in July of 1880.

A second example is shown on the green plate below.

This green plate has the S for September on the reverse above the 02 signifying the year 1902. This particular pattern was very popular for Copeland and was made for a very long time. It was also copied by other manufacturers as well so having proof of its Copeland origin is particularly useful here.

Here is an example on a sweet Copeland majolica basket.

This one shows an S over 78 indicating September of 1878. This impression is a bit more faint than the previous two but careful examination will reveal its presence.

Here's one final example, a rather rare Copeland majolica cauliflower teapot, which was no doubt the model on which the well-known Etruscan cauliflower teapot is based. This one has the letter J indicating January and the number 74 for 1874. We can say with assurance that this piece was made in January 1874.

We should note that Copeland was not as fastidious as Minton or Wedgwood in marking their ware so  these marks will only appear on a fraction of their output but it is a genuine pleasure to be able to decode them when you can find them.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Some New Majolica Reproductions

The site Real or Repro, which is affiliated with Ruby Lane Antiques is a good place to check for some of the repros currently being imported into the country. Here are a few reproductions from their current listings.

Two different copies of the Wedgwood Fruit cane stand are currently making the rounds:

These are copies of the Wedgwood original shown below:

There is also a new group of reproductions pieces making the rounds.

The pieces these are referencing are these below.

We have also seen this copy of the Holdcroft Dolphin Shell compote.

It is a copy of the original below.

There is a new reproduction of the Minton shell ewer minus the figures. This should not be confused with the Mottahedeh reproduction which has been available for some time and is marked.
There is also an extremely crude reproduction of the Minton garden seat.

Reproduction Minton ewer

Minton majolica shell ewer

Reproduction Minton majolica  garden seat

Minton majolica garden seat

There is also a new reproduction of the George Jones palm plate.

Reproduction palm plate marked J.J.

George Jones palm plate

This copy of the Sarreguemines bird plate is part of a series of four bird pattern plates marketed by Pottery Barn. The Sarreguemines original is shown below it.

Most of these originate in Asia and are slip cast. They are much lighter in weight than the originals and often have unfinished bases or unfinished interiors.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Antique Pottery Repair

A reader recently asked us a question concerning pottery repair and it occurred to us that on our blog we've never addressed the different kinds of repair available to the antique pottery collector.

Most damaged pieces of pottery will benefit from pottery repair. Damage to any piece will compromise its value but a good repair could help to restore some of that value, particularly in soft earthenware and majolica where such damage is common. There are basically two types of repair: functional and cosmetic. In the days before modern adhesives when objects were harder to replace than they might be today most repairs were done to restore the usefulness of an object. This would be functional repair.

The most common type of functional repair one sees is staple repair where a thick metal staple was inserted into the body of the pottery to support whatever damage may have been done. These repairs were done commonly up until the 1950's but their history dates back hundreds of years. They are quite remarkable when you think about the fragile material involved. The process itself is actually very simple. The two sides of the object to be repaired were solidly bound together using a sturdy twine. A small shallow metal staple with prongs pointing slightly inward was fashioned to hold the pieces together. On either side of the damaged area two small holes were drilled with a diamond bit at a 90 degree angle to the surface of the pottery where the staple prongs were intended to be inserted. The staple was then heated, causing the metal to expand and be more flexible. It was then inserted into the two drilled holes and allowed to cool. Once cooled the metal would contract forming a tight bond between the two pieces.

Staple repair on a majolica pitcher
Staple repair on a majolica pitcher

A second type of functional repair uses metal to replace a missing section. This type of repair is often referred to as a "make do." Most commonly these are seen replacing sections of spouts or handles that are missing. Either a frame or a piece of metal is fashioned to replace the missing piece. It is then attached by small pegs to the pottery body in the same manner in which staples are inserted. These kinds of repairs are usually quite charming in their inventiveness as they are often done by amateurs. Some people even specialize in collecting "make dos" because of their gentle folksy look.

Make do repair
Make do repair
A type of repair used in Japanese ceramics which we have never seen in Western culture is called Kintsugi. In Kintsugi, lacquer is mixed with gold or other metallic powder to make a liquid bond that glues the pieces together. The resulting piece is often more valuable than the original ceramic because of the beauty of the finished product as well as the precious metal used in the repair.

Kintsugi type repair 
Today, most repairs we see are purely cosmetic in nature. Using a piece that has a decorative repair will cause damage to the repair. A professional restorer will use modern adhesives, pigments and fillers to return a piece to its former glory. An important point to remember is to choose a restorer who will repair a piece so as to not compromise the integrity of the original object. Any repair should be completely removable without damaging the item. We have shown the work of several restorers previously on our blog here, here and here. All of these are decorative. None restore the usefulness of the original object but when you have a choice between this:

and this:

Retored Minton fountain base. Photos courtesy of Sarah Peek.
its appeal is obvious.        

The Majolica International Society maintains a list of restorers who specialize in majolica on their Web site, but most of them can repair other bodies as well. Local restorers can also be found through a reference from local antique dealers or through an inquiry of your local chamber of congress.