World of Wedgwood

Growing up we had a similar plaque on our dining room wall.  The plaque was probably responsible for part of my becoming fascinated with ceramics to begin with.
I made a pilgrimage to the home of Wedgwood, and it was well worth it.  My inner ceramic nerd was dancing a jig as I walked around the museum and factory.  The best things in the museum for me weren’t all the pretty finished pots, they were the test tiles and firing errors that they had on display.  I loved that the jasper ware test tiles had the percentages of colorants written on them.  And there were some examples of over firing, and sprigging not staying attached. They also had Josiah’s notebooks, and the equipment he used to mix samples. So exciting!!! 
Creamware body tests by Josiah Wedgwood.

Jasperware body tests by Josiah Wedgwood.  They are labeled with the percentages of oxides used.
Jasperware decoration tests by Josiah Wedgwood.

There were some very interesting forms, and it was informative to read about how the manufacturing process had changed over the years.  I can’t say I’m a fan of much of the stuff produced in the early 20th century at Wedgwood, but what they are making now is very good.  There were some very interesting examples of marbling that I had never seen before, and some very intriguing seafood serving sets.

The factory tour was fantastic.  I got to see and actually touch some work in progress.  The one piece of advice I would have for anyone planning a visit is to go earlier in the day.  I should have known to do this myself.  I am aware that most of the casting happens in the morning, and is all done by afternoon. I did get to see handles coming out of molds, a train kiln firing, people applying decals and painting, and jasper ware being turned as well as having sprigs applied.  They actually handed us the jollied jasper ware cup before turning and then again after.  It was really interesting to get to handle the green clay.

I learned a little history as well.  For instance, apparently slip casting came into use in 1740, and jiggering and jollying were introduced in the 1840’s during the industrial revolution.  I also learned some new vocabulary, a diddling stick is a skinny sponge on a stick used to clean castings.
The Portland Vase: over fired on the left with bloating of the body, perfect in the middle, and poorly attached falling off sprigging on the right.
Block molds for teapot parts made from salt glazed stoneware.
Millicent Taplin decorator for Wedgwood at the turn of the 20th