Since its establishment in 1759, Wedgwood has grown to be one of the most prestigious tableware makers in the world. Founded by Josiah Wedgwood when he was just 29, he began his career as an independent potter in Burslem, Staffordshire and his avid experimentation with clay soon led him to be thought of as Britain’s most inspired and successful pottery pioneer. Transforming English pottery from a cottage craft to an art form, Josiah started the Wedgwood brand on its exceptional journey and his exacting standards of quality and aim to produce affordable luxury products still form the foundations of the brand today. The perfect place for the Amara Interior Blog Awards first blogger masterclass of the year, we invited a group of interior bloggers to join us at the Wedgwood headquarters near Stoke-on-Trent to discover more on the prestigious brand.
Setting off from London to Stoke-on-Trent bright and early the group included Gabby from Flat 15, Grant from Interior Style Hunter, Jess from Only Girl in the House, Lucy from Lucy Loves Ya, Natalia from British Style UK, Bianca from French for Pineapple, Anna from Don’t Cramp My Style, Yasmin Chopin and Alina The Fairytale Pretty Picture, along with Karen, Jess and Lucy from Amara. The visit saw the group head to The World of Wedgwood, a sprawling complex containing the factory, museum and the famous Wedgwood tea room. The factory tour kicked off the day where the group learnt exactly how the classic pieces are made. Wedgwood produces fine bone china with 50% of the ingredients and china clay sourced from Cornwall. To give an idea of the volume of china items created at the factory the group were told that the cup making machine alone produces 13,000 cups per week with the handles applied to each one by hand.
‘Spending the day with Wedgwood was an absolute treat. Exploring their production facility, meeting the skilled artisans and getting a chance to make a piece of Jasperware was something I’ll not forget. Wedgwood is a truly iconic British brand and after yesterday, I can see why.’ Grant – Interior Style Hunter
The kilns are one of the most impressive parts of the factory and reach temperatures of 1250°C once lit – a process which takes 9.5 hours. Approximately 6000 pieces are fired each day at the factory from the smallest of espresso cups to the biggest of vases. Inevitably breakages happen, but no china ever goes to waste with any broken pieces turned into rubble and used on the roads around the Stoke-on-Trent area. The most creative part of the production process is of course the decoration stage and the group were able to witness the detailed lithography method being carried out before their very eyes. They were introduced to Bruce who has spent 40 years at Wedgwood perfecting the lithography technique which incorporates 22ct gold and can take up to a week to finish a single piece. Once finished the piece is given a unique number imprinted on the bottom relating to the employee who decorated it, demonstrating the uniqueness of this technique.
‘The day at Wedgwood was fascinating. Being a unique brand with so much heritage it’s no surprise that the workers are proud to be a part of it. The craftsmanship, artistry and skill is clear within every corner of the factory, museum and crafts session whilst the flagship store’s restaurant showed off the epitome of a magnificent afternoon tea experience.’ Alina – The Fairytale Pretty Picture
After taking in the factory, the bloggers were guided to the Wedgwood museum which has undergone four restorations since it was first opened in 1906 to showcase the rich history of the celebrated brand. The museum begins with an expansive family tree dating back to Josiah and Sarah Wedgwood and spans their descendants. Amongst the family tree the group spotted a name which was instantly recognisable – Charles Darwin. The famed naturalist was Josiah & Sarah’s grandson. Learning how to potter from the tender age of 13, Josiah chose to learn the skill over a traditional education and he went on to invent a range of pottery feats including the first Pyrometer to measure the temperature of kilns. Wedgwood and royalty have long enjoyed a close affinity which grew from Josiah being named ‘Potter to Her Majesty’ after gifting a full Wedgwood tea set to Queen Charlotte in the early 1760s. The cream coloured earthenware became known as ‘Queen’s Ware’ and is still famous today along with the Jasper and Black Basalt designs which have also been preserved throughout the centuries.
‘I have always been a huge fan of Wedgwood. It was incredibly exciting to visit them and see the creativity behind the scenes. It was particularly interesting to learn of how they have evolved over the last few hundred years – and how they also still use some of the same techniques even today. It was a real treat to be invited. Thank you!’ Lucy – Lucy Loves Ya
Another highlight from the museum was Wedgwood’s ‘most perfect piece’ which has long been recognised as the Portland vase created by Josiah Wedgwood when the 3rd Duke of Portland lent him the Roman original (dated between 1-25 AD) for him to create a replica made from jasperware. After the bloggers and the Amara team had had their fill of rich Wedgwood history, it was time for the masterclass itself but not before a spot of afternoon tea served on classic Wedgwood china. The group was split into two to take on two different stages of the manufacturing process including throwing a pot and decorating a plate. The plate decorating process entailed choosing a design (hand drawn if the bloggers were feeling creative or pre-printed designs) to be transferred onto a paper template which was then laminated. A short soak in warm water allowed the transfer to be peeled off and then be pressed onto the ceramic plate using a hard brush to ensure no air bubbles.
The pot throwing class took place in the Master Craft Studio with two Wedgwood craftswomen to guide the group through the process. First they threw a single round piece of clay onto the potter’s wheel and dipped their hands in water before beginning to mould the clay on the slowly spinning wheel. After pushing the clay into the desired shape, the speed of the wheels were increased which meant the group had to keep control of the clay whilst pressing it into the perfect pot shape. They were then tasked with smoothing out any creases and carefully lifting the still wet clay from the wheel which was nowhere near as easy as it sounds. To remember the day, all of the bloggers and the Amara team will receive their plates and pots once they have been fired for them, to have their own piece of Wedgwood heritage.
A big thank you to Wedgwood for hosting the memorable event and to the bloggers for joining us!