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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Minton Archive

Minton Museum, 1889.

In a corner of the Internet lies a Web site that could prove of great use to scholars and pottery collectors alike in the coming years: the online version of the Minton Archive.

The Minton Archive consists of the production records of over twenty companies who operated in Stoke-on-Trent from about 1800 through 1968. In addition to the Minton company itself the records of such companies as Ridgeway, Royal Doulton, and Shelly are included in the archive.

Created by The Art Fund in 2015 and gifted to the city of Stoke-on-Trent, the original paper archive is slowly being transferred online. Right now the records of the Minton pottery archive are available for research online as are a small group of highlighted images that accompany these records. Plans are to enlarge these visual images to include the entire Minton section of the archive as well as those records of the other companies.

The site itself is a wonderful read for anyone interested in this period of British ceramics. In addition to photographs of the company there are individual sections devoted to the company, artists, shapes, production, artwork and employees. There is also a marvelous blog that covers a variety of topics from designs to conservation of the paper the original archive was written on.

The archive is extensive. Because of this I will concentrate on only three sections that I thought would be of interest. One of those sections highlights the extraordinary designs of Christopher Dresser. Dresser was a highly influential industrial artist who left his mark on all levels of decorative wares.

Another section shows original designs for majolica wares including English Registration records.

Minton majolica lobster terrine*

Minton vase in porcelain*

Minton majolica oyster plate*

Finally, the blog section did an examination of the famous Minton butterfly plate, starting with the original registration through the various designs used on the plates.

Minton butterfly plate in majolica*
Minton butterfly plate in majolica*
In time the archive will only become better as it expands to include more records. We're very lucky that the potteries had the foresight to save their records for posterity.

To visit the archive go to:  http://www.themintonarchive.org.uk

All images are from the Minton Archive with the exception of those with asterisks*

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Maw and Company Majolica Tiles

The tile firm of Maw & Co. was founded in 1850 when brothers George and Arthur Maw purchased a failing tile manufacturing firm in Worcester, G.B. The company specialty was in encaustic and mosaic tile manufacture. In 1852 in order to expand their business the company moved to a larger facility in Shropshire to the Benthall Works at Broseley where they could take advantage of the local supplies of clay and coal.

Maw & Co. factory buildings
Maw & Co. Benthall Works   Photo: David Stowell
Arthur Maw  Photo:©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Around 1862 the company expanded to include majolica tile among its products as well as transfer printed and and portrait tiles in the style of Email Ombrant. By 1883 the company had established itself as one of the largest tile manufactures in the Great  Britain, producing tiles for use across the globe. Maw also produced a small quantity of art pottery.

Maw art pottery Photo:© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Maw art pottery Photo: ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Maw art pottery Photo:©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Majolica designs from the 1867 catalog

Majolica and encaustic catalog pages

The company continued to expand and moved its location again to Jackfield. At the height of their production the Maw was producing in excess of 20 million tiles a year with clients that included the royal family of Russia, maharajas in India, several titled families throughout G.B., schools hospitals and cathedrals.

Old Library, Cardiff, Wales  Photo: Sion
By 1900 Maw & Co was the largest tile manufacturer in the world.

Whereas the bulk of the family business continued to be encaustic tiles their production of majolica tiles rival the quality of Minton and Wedgwood who were the company's main competitors. Like Minton, the bulk of their majolica tiles were of the tube-lined variety. Tube-lining is a process where liquid clay is squeezed from a tube onto the tile in a required pattern like the outline of a coloring book. The spaces between the lines are then filled with majolica glazes to create the finished tile.

c. 1880

However, the company also did molded majolica tiles in the style of the large majolica manufacturers where three dimensional surfaces were then glazed in different colors. These are among the most beautiful tiles created by Maw.

Designed by Charles Bevan  c.1870
c. 1870

c. 1870


Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
c. 1885  Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum
Designer–Lewis Foreman Day c.1890 Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Changing tastes affected the family business sales after WW1 and production slowly declined. In 1960 Maw merged with Campbell Tile and changed its name to Maw-Cambell Co. In 1968 the company became part of the H.R. Johnson Group. The company finally shut its doors in 1970 after 120 years in business.

In 2001 Maw and Co. reopened as a specialty company under new leadership and today manufactures reproduction tiles from the Victorian era.