I have owned this vase for some time now and have never been able to sell it. I have had the chance but always held it back. It always seemed to work in with my decoration. I always had a spot for it.
A beautiful creation by Pilkington decorated by Richard Joyce the best decorator at Pilkingtons at the best period in their creative history.
The glory of Pilkingtons lustre ware has for some time been eclipsed by the work of the William De Morgan factory.
Because they made so many different styles, that covered a large time span, I feel, people pigeon hole the wares. Maybe that's understanding as there are many differing qualities at Pilkingtons and a plethora of commercial work.
Is the marketplace finally appreciating the lustred ware of Pilkingtons?
The factory was formed almost by accident in 1891, when discovery of clay at Clifton, five miles north of Manchester.
This discovery, in the colliery, owned by J and J Evans, which the Pilkington Brothers ran on their behalf.
The Red Marl clay was found during faulty coal mining engineering at, what was known as the Pendleton fault, and it was thought this could be used for bricks.
A rather better decision, was made, to make tiles and the Pilkington Tile and Pottery company was formed.
William Burton was brought in, he was a young chemist who had learnt his trade at Wedgwood.
He had studied chemistry at the Royal School of Mines at South Kensington.
The operation was set up in the most professional of manners. The Pilkington Brothers had no experience and left the running up of the plant to William Burton and his brother Joseph who joined him 1895.
It had good canal and rail links and was a good spot for ready labour.
Burton hired the many specialists from his contacts.
Burton had been an examiner for City and Guilds examination board and his theory that potters should be trained in workshops and not schools was to be implemented.
His beneficial experience brought in a style of management that was to help and encourage the workers. He took care in their welfare and training.
Some workers were taken to see the Paris Exhibition of 1900 and students were sent to art schools, expenses paid.
Joseph the younger brother was a renowned expert on early pottery, especially Chinese.
He was, the main experimenter with glazes, and his work has often been eclipsed by the bolder steps of his older brother.
1893 after two years of tile making began several small pottery experiments had gone well.
Trade increased and in 1896 and a new slip house, grinding plant, tile plant, bisque oven and placing shed were erected.
It is debatable as in the order of good potting, whether it be the science of the glazes and its effect on the clay, or the art of the craftsman and decorator. Yet, you can not have one without the other.
Potters around 1900 were now being led by the advances of the scientists. They could no longer ignore these leaps in chemistry and the public wanted the new, or in this period literally the style of the New Art or Art Nouveau. With the commitment to the new style what better than to commission designers of note such as Walter Crane, who it has been claimed, rightly or wrongly, was the very first pioneer of the style.
At the 1901 Glasgow Exhibition the company showed four panels with designs by Alphons Mucha.
C.F.A. Voysey added great company to their stable of designers.
There began an obsession with colour. Looking back retrospectively this period of the 1890's was a period of the impressionists and Manet and Matisse.
This is a period of intense commercial competition and the commerce was being led by inspiring palettes of colour, mostly led by chemists, something new and different....that sold.
The various niches were filled not only here but on the continent of America who had taken up the arts and crafts ideal.
Europe was changing, new styles highlighted borders and heritage, as well as a new take on that past, such as the salt glazed designs of Henry Van De Velde in Belgium.
Theodore Deck, did fantastic Persian inspired work as did William De Morgan.
Lachenal in France with his velvet blues, Dalapayrat even had a colour named Dalpayrat Rouge. Many others on the continent, not only in France, were causing sensations with new unique wares.
There really was an international run on the New Art.
The public lapped it up decorating their houses in the Art Nouveau.
So what of the historical references to the most basic of tasks, making a vessel.
Decoration to pots possibly came before the art of cave painting by the simple incision in clay, and the decoration of a utensil. I believe this is incised in our DNA. In our primeval inner core of sensibility. Abstract art began in primitive times, well before we can reach back justifiably with confirmation.
Gordon Forsyth, it is said, saw the twisted and bent steelwork of the British pavilion of the Brussels Exhibition of 1910 and immediately was inspired to design lustre glazed pots with sweeping swirling depictions of flames in lustrous colours, already stabilised by the chemists.
So now the work of chemistry became as important as skill.
Many new art factories knew what they were doing and the public wanted this new art.
Back in Lancashire. In 1913 there were twenty four tile kilns, seven biscuit ovens and three ghost ovens all functioning well.
At some point, a different white earthenware, combining china clay, flint, from France, ball clay and china stone, that was imported from Cornwall Devon and Dorset by ship and then barge.
The company had its own wharf and a storage facility that facilitated the weathering and the maturing of the clay.
The company made a profit, but in 1905 saw a £124 loss just as the lustre ware was about to go into production. Only pottery decorated by glaze was being made at this time.
During the First World War tile production diminished a loss of £13,516. But soon the company returned to profit. 1920 saw a profit of £28,047 and it prospered until the economic downturn of the thirties saw the closure, except for prestigious contracts, when the pottery was all but closed.
From 1917 production of pottery fell from 10.5per cent to 1.3per cent of production. It had always been a small scale enterprise funded by the prosperous side of the company.
The lustre wares an even smaller enterprise within.
Lapis Ware, much easier to produce, was introduced in the late twenties.
In 1937 the company was renamed Pilkingtons Tiles Ltd with the cessation of pottery production. During The Second World War they even annealed steel bars under government contract.
They were even asked to carry out experiments on pottery bullets by the war office.
Revived in 1948-57, they never recreated the past glory of the pottery wares and closed again.
The tile business merged with Carter and Co of Poole on 1964, companies with similar histories of tile and pottery production. Combining the both companies, Lancastrian pottery started production in 1972 but closed 1975 using some of the shapes from a broad spectrum of wares from 1904-38.
The company is still making tiles on a vast scale.
So what of my vase and who was Richard Joyce.
He was born in 1873 in the hamlet of Boothorpe near Blackford, Derbyshire.
He studied at the Swadlincote school of art, he had, at one time worked for Bretby, run by Henry Toothe. He had also worked for Moore's Brothers. He moved to Pilkingtons in 1903 where he remained until his death in1931. His work is always of the finest quality. He mainly decorated the pieces with animal and fish studies. He was a unassuming man by all accounts. He was an angler for sure, nobody has told me this, but I know that he was. Within this vase he has captured the gravel bed river scene, from below the water. Its as if, you have cut a vertical slice into the river, and have been able to join the creatures. It is clever depiction of Dace amongst the flowing reed beds. And what convinces me he was a fisherman most? It is the single Grayling that is there.
When fishing, or river trotting for Dace, a small but lively breed, in shallow but fast running section, you sometimes have to get in the water, and feel the current. Slowly trotting a waggler float down to the jittery and easily spooked, but beautiful fish. You sometimes see them darting around you as you quietly creep closer. Like silver doubloons being spun through the water. You will catch a couple of Dace, if you are lucky and then a few more and then you will catch a different coloured one, as if by surprise you catch a small but strong more colourful fish of the river, the Grayling.
Related to the game fish more than the course fish there are always a few that shoal with Dace.
As if, by return compliments, the same thing happens within the shoals of Grayling you will catch the odd Dace.
They don't grow that large but are great sport on light 1lb line. Richard Joyce saw all that.
Its like he was in the river with the fish. A very clever touch.