Some of the greatest designers of
the Twentieth Century have worked in the ceramics industry. Household names
have become highly collectable and eagerly sought by enthusiasts. But what was
behind the people who created these wonderful designs?
This study weekend set out to explore the work of women in ceramics design and
the effect they had on our ceramics history. Concentrating on several of the
better known names.
The weekend started on the Friday evening with an brief outline of the
designers to be discussed and the period to which they made their strongest
contribution, followed by a 'getting to know you' session at the local pub.
Saturday started with a lecture by Greg Stevenson on the work of Clarice Cliff,
famous for her bright and bold Art Deco designs. The origins of her work and
the inspiration for some of her designs were discussed, along with a summary of
her personal life and the success of the Clarice Cliff range. After a break for
coffee, Sharon Gater introduced us to the women designers of Wedgwood. Starting
with female contributions made as early as 1750, we were quickly whisked into
the Twentieth Century, where the merits of designers like Millicent Taplin and
Daisy Makeig-Jones were under review. The role of some of the male designers at
the factory during the periods discussed were also included.
During the morning session we were lucky enough to be joined by Alison Wright,
the great niece of Clarice Cliff, who brought along some of Clarice's personal
After lunch we were joined by Kathie Winkle, while Andrew Casey provided a
summary of her career at Broadhurst, illustrated with slides of her work.
Kathie kindly answered questions from those attending. We were also joined at
this time by Rene Dale who worked as an outliner and decorator for Clarice
Cliff, along with Jim Hall who also worked at the Wilkinsons factory. Both
kindly answered questions, talking about their work and life in the late
A show and tell session followed, with Andrew and others sharing their
knowledge of ceramic design. The Channel 4 programme 'The Pottery Ladies' was
The days lectures were rounded off with a look at the work of Susie Cooper,
given by Andrew Casey, Susie's full career was discussed, from her background
through the Gray's years, her own independent productions and on into the years
The second day brought us into more recent times. Jessie Tait's work at
Midwinter was first for review, from the well know patterns produced during the
fifties, such as 'Festival' and 'Primavera' through to popular sixties designs
like 'Spanish Garden.'
Steve Mackay, author of a soon to be published book on Portmeirion* brought
along examples from his own collection so we could look at the designs of Susan
William-Ellis. Covering the buyout of A.E.Gray in the 1950s through the wacky
designs of the sixties and on to possible her most famous pattern 'Botanic
Garden.' The aim was to illustrate that Susan had designed far more than just
this pattern which has now become synonymous with Portmeirion.
An enjoyable weekend, with an informal approach to the lectures, aided by
Andrew's appetite for sharing recollections of his mealtime meetings with the
famous names of the Potteries.
|Andrew Casey discusses a collectors pot