The name “Wedgwood” is probably one of the most well known associated with porcelain and pottery in the Western world. Josiah Wedgwood was born in 1730 into a family of potters at Burslem in Staffordshire, the great centre of English ceramics. Staffordshire is synonymous with the production of porcelain and pottery, as the county is uniquely positioned with potting clay and the plentiful water supply necessary for the manufacture of fine ceramics.
Potting in Staffordshire has had an uninterrupted history of over 300 years, with many household names originating from, what were often, very small, family potteries. Principals among these are names such as Wedgwood, Minton and Spode, many of these famous names now amalgamated into large international companies.
Josiah Wedgwood was known as a man full of new ideas, a man who experimented tirelessly to develop and refine his product. One of Wedgwood’s most outstanding achievements was his painstaking development of his famous jasper. Jasper would be best described as hard, fine grained, stoneware and was introduced in 1774, but it was not until 1779, that Wedgwood was able to successfully produce plaques and vases in the exquisite range of pastel colours known today as Wedgwood Jasper.
Wedgwood’s years of trial and error with colours and firing techniques, led to the superb range of colours that we know today. With a range of colours such as sage green, yellow, lilac and the famous pale blue, all derived from metallic oxides discovered by Wedgwood. To fully understand and appreciate the position of a man like Wedgwood in his 18th century world, we need to understand a little of "how society worked".
His age was the age of the patron or of one who could "smooth the way" because of his social rank. Society was very clearly classified between the social classes; from the rural working class, the merchant class and the titled, aristocratic land owning class.
It was this upper class to which men like Wedgwood needed to appeal for patronage and support. Wedgwood went right to the top and through connections was received by the Queen, Queen Charlotte, consort to King George III.
The Queen was delighted with Wedgwood’s presentation gift of rather plain and simple cream ware, Wedgwood had done his homework! and knew that both the King and Queen had, what was considered, simple taste, so he knew exactly what to present. His simple cream ware was very quickly renamed “Queen’s Ware” and promptly opened the door to the clients which were able to support his beautiful neo classic, expensive jasper.
Pair Of 19th Century Wedgwood Blue Jasper Candlestick Lamps - Circa 1870
Solid jasper, as the name suggests, is coloured throughout, the various colours produced with different metallic oxides, whereas dipped jasper is a white stoneware, dipped into a vat of metallic oxide receiving a surface colour, technically, an applied slip of coloured jasper.
The white jasper decoration we usually see on coloured jasper, known as “applied relief”, was made separately in plaster moulds from a design and typically carved in solid wax. The cast relief was then “sprigged on”, (a ceramic term meaning “to apply”), to the relief to the surface of the jasper shape, before its single firing. The best known jasper today is the pale blue with white relief decoration.
Josiah Wedgwood died in 1795 and inscribed on his monument in Stoke Parish church are the words “He converted the English pottery industry from a rude and inconsiderable manufactory into an elegant art and an important part of the national commerce”.
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“Classical Greece”, meaning, authoritative: of recognized authority or excellence; "the definitive work on Greece" or relating to the most highly developed stage of an earlier civilization and its culture.
This interpretation of the term “classic” clearly defines the Greece of 500 BC, which has constantly re-inspired the Western world. The well known Athenian Acropolis constructed in 500 BC, the temple to Athena, being a perfect example of classical Greek architecture.
At various periods thought history, revivals of the superb designs of Greek classicism have emerged in art and design and particularly, architecture. Architectural styles have been inspired by elements of ancient Greek temples, with the use of massive marble Corinthian and Doric columns, decorative friezes and grand stair cases.
These revisits are generally known today as periods of “Greek Revival”. These movements were dominant from about the middle of the 18th century, lasting, almost until the close of the 19th century, 1750 – 1890.
When speaking of design and the visual arts, the neoclassical movement or the turning back to the classic, can be dated to about circa 1765 with its introduction generally seen as a reaction to the restraints of the former styles of the Baroque and Rococo, both of which were heavy with form and ornamentation.
The neo classical style can be seen as a desire to go back to the perceived purity and clean lines of ancient Greece. In France, this classical style became known as the style “Etruscan” and was much favored by the court of Louis XV and XVI.
From the late 18th century and up until about 1830, the style greatly influenced designers, peaking through the early years of the 19th century. Interior and furniture designers began to design and produce Greek style tables, chairs, wall hangings, pottery silver and even coaches. These were all designed in the new classical Greek style, with simple lines and decorative elements drawn from the repertoire of Greco-Roman ornament, particularly from Greek vase painting and from classical architecture, i.e. architectural motifs such as the repetitive Greek key, palmettes and Acanthus leaf.
The typical colour range of this neoclassic revival included black motifs outlined against terracotta and Pompeian red, powder blue, puce and olive, these colours sometimes used in a single décor.
With the exception of porcelain and pottery of the period, when we see these colours today, they appear as pastels. We forget that these objects have been exposed to over 200 years of sunlight with original interiors having long since faded.
From about 1800, European archaeology was “discovering” ancient Greece, with new design elements being literally brought to the surface! In 1806, Lord Elgin transported architectural elements of the Parthenon from Athens to London with events such as this having the effect of lifting neoclassicism to new heights. Many artists were now taking the path to Greece and a steady flow of sketches and engravings were now making their way north.
The style swept across Europe, now variously known in France, as the Neo-Greek and Empire style, in England as the Regency style and in Russia as Empire style, with its influence felt not only in architecture and design, but in literature, theatre and music.
The Greek revival had a profound influence on architecture, an influence which lasted well into the 19th century. In fact, it was not until the 1840’s that the term “Greek Revival” was used, believing to have been first used by Charles Cockerell, Professor of Architecture, in a lecture delivered to the Royal Society in 1842.
The style lasted well into the 1860’s, especially in North America. The revival saw the construction of many banks, courthouses and other large public buildings including private houses designed on the grand scale. From an architectural perspective, it was held to reflect intellect, prosperity and stability, with the use of grand porticoes supported by stately columns, reminiscent of Greek temples.
With the decorative arts, the revival was again strengthened in the 1860-1870 period. At this date, of course, we are talking of the high Victorian period, with design now characterised by a Victorian robustness. Throughout this late revival decade, art and design again swung toward the neoclassical, although this time without the early 19th century slenderness and elegant fine lines.
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It was the Dutch East India Company who, in 1650, opened the doors of Europe to the import of Japanese porcelain. Most of this early Japanese export porcelain was decorated as blue and white, much favored by the Dutch and still widely collected in the Netherlands today.
The Japanese Emperor had granted the Dutch a concessional trading port and factory to meet the growing demand for Japanese ceramics. These export kilns were situated at Arita in Japan's Hizen province. Not far from Arita was the great trading port of Imari. All export to the west left Japan through this port and it was from this port that the famous Japanese Imari porcelain takes its name.
This relationship is quite often missed, leading to much Japanese porcelain being attributed to "The Imari" factory. As the export trade increased, the demand for new shapes and colours grew, leading to the bright "Imari” patterns that are so distinctively recognised today.
These patterns, were in fact, derived from the sometimes identical patterns found in Japanese textiles and brocade, the coloured palette of enamels selected by the porcelain decorators in imitation of the silks chosen by the textile makers.
A standard range of colours make up the traditional palette of Imari decoration. A rich cobalt blue combines with a deep iron red to produce the basic colours. These two colours can then be embellished with pale blue, yellow, aubergine, greens and black. These brightly coloured Imari porcelains were much favored by Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries with their bright brocade-like colours, cheering up the long dark days of winter.
© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2018
The “art” of interior design is generally seen as divided between modern contemporary, eclectic; interiors which include design components from a range of sources and classic or traditional interior design. A definition of classic is “a work of recognised excellence" or one that has stood the test of time.
A classic lamp, by definition, is well qualified, having seen a minimum of 100 years of changes in fashion and trends. Here it stands a century later, as elegant and timeless as the day it was made, having survived them all!
For a classic or eclectic interior, fine antique table lamps will quickly “pull the look together”, adding interest and an overall sense of high style.
Sophisticated interior design requires thoughtful and subtle lighting. To over or under light a beautiful interior is to detract from the finished effect. The great benefit of table lamp lighting is that it is easily portable, allowing for lighting to be re positioned to produce the most satisfactory outcome.
The classic lamp calls for the classic lampshade. Lampshades can be made in many materials with silk being the fabric of choice. For the ultimate in luxurious furnishings, silk can also be used to line a shade ensuring a professional and polished finish. This sumptuous textile is available in an almost endless array of colours and is the last word in elegance and refinement. A full range of shade styles are available in any shape. Soft or bonded, knife, box or diamond pleats or perhaps a ruffling effect.
Our home interiors are an important part of our lives offering an excellent means of self expression and comfortable retreat from the busyness of the world in which we live. Well placed antique and decorative lamps with their gentle, glowing light make a valuable contribution to the feeling of any classic interior.
An antique lamp can be a lot more than just a source of interior lighting; it can also be a work of art with a major contribution to the classic / eclectic interior.
Antique lamps with a “presence” can add to our visual appreciation of life. An antique lamp can be seen and appreciated in just the same way as a picture, which can add so much to enrich our experience.
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For the past two centuries, the West has been continually re-inspired by Oriental interior design. It was first inspired in the 18th century with the first British embassy to Imperial China in 1793 when Lord McCartney was received in Beijing by the Qianlong emperor.
This historically diplomatic event began an English love affair with Chinese decoration and art, reaching its high point during the period of the English Regency of George the IV. It was the French, however, who instigated the European love of Chinese art and culture with the French term “Chinoiserie” used to describe this exotic, decorative style. Today the Western enthusiasm for the Oriental interior continues to grow, especially with China’s recent rapprochement with the West.
Interior lighting, of course, is a major contributor to the successful outcome of a decorative scheme. So much so, that poorly thought through lighting can make or break a beautiful interior. With this in mind, the Antique Lamp Shoppe offers a range of both Chinese and Japanese lamps, all designed to compliment the Oriental interior.
To Western eyes, the traditional Oriental interior would look rather “undecorated” with fewer items of furniture, often carved and lacquered. The interior colour scheme is much richer than the Western interpretation, with the Chinese love of strong colours. Chinese traditional interiors use bold colours with red predominating, along with other bright colours such as yellow and green.
Within this interior style, lamps other than Oriental could look entirely out of place. The appropriate lamp will “pull the look together”, particularly when combined with sumptuous, silk lamp shades in Eastern style. With the use of well placed antique lamps, the interior scheme will result in a harmonious balance of complimentary colours and style.
© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2019
Hand Turned in Scotland 100 Years Ago
There is nothing like the polished sheen on antique wood, lovingly polished with bee’s wax for the past hundred, or even, the past two hundred years. Over this long period of time a rich patina is produced, the fine sheen of polished wood. This patina can never be successfully reproduced but is only the result of elbow grease, wax and time!
Treen is a generic name for the small to medium, functional handmade objects made of wood. Hence treen is distinct from furniture, chairs, tables etc. The very word is antique! and is, in fact, a Middle English word from the 13th century, when treen meant tree or wood.
The word is still in common use to describe small objects made in hand turned wood. Wood, of course, being the major raw material for common domestic objects with turning and carving being the key skills.
Some rare examples of treen exist from the 15th century with most antique pieces being made in the 19th century. These were made prior to the introduction of cheap metal wares and finally, plastics. As the 19th century progressed, the “old fashioned” treen pieces were discarded for the new wares.
G085 A Classic Pair of Late 18th Century English Mahogany Lamps - Circa 1790
I have found that it is men who particularly appreciate the simple lines of polished wood. Traditional attitudes have generally placed interior design in the feminine compartment, but attitudes change and men are now equally accepted as partners in sharing an interest in interior decoration.
From a purely male perspective, men will see table lamps as a subject that allows for creative expression. Lamps for the den, for the office, for a library or simply to add to the pleasure derived from their living space. There is a real pleasure in owning something that is unique and beautiful while remaining a useful asset to a family.
Antique pieces such as table lamps, can also do a lot for a modern interior, adding a much warmer element when integrated into a décor. It is quite often a surprise to discover just how “at home” an antique piece can look in a modern interior. A quality antique piece will not only reflect superb workmanship from an earlier time, but will also increase in value.
© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2019
A Spode Bone China Saucer Dish - Circa 1810
When we speak of bone china, does it ever raise the question, however fleetingly, "I wonder if this cup I’m drinking from, actually contains bones"? The short answer is "yes"! But we can’t leave it there, so on to the long answer …..
Conventionally, the development of bone china is attributed to Josiah Spode (1754-1827), who introduced it in 1797, but like many stories, bone china goes back a lot further than that.
We must first acknowledge China as the first country to produce porcelain, a prototype or early type of porcelain, about the year 1000. About 400 years later, examples of Chinese porcelain arrived in Europe. From then on and right up until the early 18th century, the race was on to discover the “secret mystery” of how to make porcelain.
The earliest recorded attempts were in late 16th century Italy, in the Medici ruled city of Florence, where experimental porcelains were produced by mixing powdered glass with clay in an attempt to reproduce the tantalizing translucency of the Chinese examples acquired.
Further attempts were made in the late 17th century at Rouen in France, until porcelain, at last, was successfully made at Meissen during the first early years of the 18th century. This was known as high fired or hard paste porcelain in the Chinese manner.
Up until the mid 18th century, there is no doubt that the most beautiful European porcelains were produced at the French factories, such as St Cloud, Chantilly and Mennecy. Many are the writers who describe these porcelains as “delicious” and “luscious”, the French factories, some would say, peaking with the famous porcelains of Vincennes and on to Sevres in 1756.
These famous French porcelains were all soft paste, also known as “artificial porcelain” which was produced by the addition of powdered glass to china clay, as in the early Florentine, Medici porcelain. Powdered glass was used as a substitute for feldspathic rock, also called “petuntse”. This naturally occurring silicate fuses under a high temperature changing into a kind of natural glass.
However, it is not possible to completely outline the story of bone china without first looking at the development and contribution of English soft paste porcelain.
The first mention of soft paste porcelain, (1742), was by Thomas Briand, a speaker and member of the prestigious British Royal Society. Briand delivered a paper on porcelain to The Society and it is now believed to have been based on the French, St Cloud formula.
The first English factory to produce soft paste porcelain in the French manner was Chelsea, established in 1743. Chelsea, true to the French style, used powdered glass to produce its early, superb and now, incredibly rare porcelain.
The two partners who established the Chelsea factory were Thomas Briand, (the same Thomas Briand who delivered the lecture to the British Royal Society) and a French silver smith, both of French Huguenots descent, hence the connection to St Cloud!
We now arrive at bone ash porcelain or the more widely known term “bone china”.
Bone china does indeed contain bones! Lots of bones, usually cattle bones! The raw bone, left after cleaning, is heated in a kiln to about 1000°c, at which temperature the bone is reduced to a fine white ash. It is then finely ground with water before being blended with crushed feldspar and china clay. Bone china, in fact, consists of a remarkable 50% bone ash, 25% feldspar and 25% of the finest china clay.
Bone ash porcelain was first introduced at the London Bow factory circa 1750, with Chelsea following circa 1755. The bone ash mix produced better molding properties and greater stability. These factors substantially reduced kiln loss, which caused great problems for most of the 18th century factories.
Here is where we meet Josiah Spode I, who in 1767, after a seven year apprenticeship and a number of other partnerships, opened his own factory. His son, Josiah Spode II, now having inherited his father’s factory, is attributed with the refinement and perfection of bone china. (The Spode factory still stands on this very same site and holds the title of “the oldest porcelain producing factory still standing on its original site”).
Spode's great contribution was to experiment with and discover the ideal porcelain body. In short, he took the standard hard paste porcelain mix of china clay and feldspar, based on traditional Chinese porcelain and added refined bone ash. This process totally transformed the English ceramic industry and by the end of the 18th century, with one exception, no soft paste porcelain was made in England.
Bone china became and is now the standard English porcelain which has been an exclusive English product ever since. Bone ash has rarely been used outside of England, with the US and European manufacturers preferring the hard paste porcelain in the Chinese manner. It is the bone ash which gives bone china its strength and whiteness, with a remarkable translucency - and there are no bones about that!
©Antique Lamp Shoppe 2018