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Collecting Moorcroft Pottery

Moorcroft

Art Pottery as it was known, started to become popular at the end of the 19th Century. Before then, pottery was more for commercial usage. Names like Poole Pottery, Pilkington, Lancaster Pottery near Manchester and Ruskin Pottery, all started around this period.

William Moorcroft, 1872-1945 was born in Burslem Staffordshire, the son of Thomas Moorcroft china painter and designer at E.J.D Bodley's Hill Pottery. After the death of his father in 1886, William Moorcroft studied at the Burslem School of art and in 1895 moved to the National Art Training School, later to become the Royal College of Art. After studying at a number of other institutes including the British Museum, he gained his Art Masters Certificate in 1897.


Although this would have given him a good career as an art master his heart was in becoming a practical potter and so joined as an assistant designer at the James Macintyre Company in Burslem. From this descion stemmed all his future success. Although Macintyres was known chiefly as a manufacturer of commercial pottery and porcelain, they did have an art pottery dept run by the head designer, Henry Barnard formerly a ceramic artist at Doultons Lambeth pottery. It was said that he was the person who introduced tube lining, or slip trailing as it was sometimes called, into the potteries. This William Moorcroft used with considerable success and when Bernard left to join Wedgwood, Moorcroft was invited to take his place of the Ornamental Ware Dept.

The first range of strip trailed pottery he produced was called Florian Ware, registered in 1903. This was based mainly on flower forms and here W.Moorcroft introduced his own form of tube lining technique. Taking responsibility for all aspects of production and firing. This control paid of and soon Florian Ware was being sold in all the major cities in Europe and America. Almost every piece carried his signature- a rare early incidence of the designers' name being used.

His print and enamel Aurelian Ware was also popular. In 1898 he was given a bronze medal in the National Competion of the Dept of Science and Art, before long was internationally known. In 1904 he won his first gold medal at the St. Louis International Exhibition.

He went on to win another gold medal in Brussels in 1910 and in 1913 a Diploma of Honour in Gent. At home his work was shown along other well know potters in an exhibition known as Modern English Pottery

Among his new ranges was Flamminian Ware, this started to show his growing interest in the use of lustre glazes. Already established was Butterfly Ware (1899). Hespian Ware, Poppy (1898) Hazeldene a landscape with trees (1902), Claremont with its toadstool motif (1903) and Tudor Rose (1904).

Bara Ware made between 1908 and 1913 was produced mainly for Liberty, famous London Dept store with which Moorcroft had a close working relationship. Pomegranate (1910) Spanish of the same year and Pansy (1911) along with Wisteria (1910) all showed a subtle change of direction in his style of growing sophistication in colour and decoration.

When Macintyre decided to close his Art Pottery Dept, Moorcroft decided to start up on his own and with the help of the Liberty family he built a factory of his own at Cobridge. In the same year 1913 he married Florence Lovibond, a home office inspector of factories, who was able to give him valuable advice in the building of the Cobridge factory. Built in a record 10 weeks, the factory was a modern single storey building designed for streamling production and to minimise problems he had previously encountered.

Taking with him all the moulds he had built up and along with the men and women he had trained, he started production with a bread and butter line known as Blue Porcelain, Powder Blue or Moorcroft Blue this started in 1913 until 1963.

During the war which started in 1914 he continued production although the home markets suffered he won valuable government contracts. After the war he extended his ranges and developed new designs. In 1921 a special flambé kiln was built to further his experiments with flambé glazes.

Landscapes like Moonlight Blue (1922) Eventide (1923) and Dawn (1926) further enhanced his reputation. In 1928 he was appointed potter to Her Majesty Queen Mary, who was a connoisseur of ceramics.

During the Art Deco period of the 1920's designs were changed to reflect the styles of the period. Moorcroft won acclaim at the Paris Exhibition of 1925, which gave birth to the Art Deco period. Floral motifs used earlier were developed like orchids freesias and fruit in the 1930's.

In 1935 William Moorcroft's son, Walter Moorcroft (born 1917) joined his fathers firm and learned his trade. By the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 he had begun to create his own designs but was called up to serve in the Intelligence Corps.

William Moorcroft kept the business afloat despite wartime restrictions but this eventually took it's toll on his health and he died at the end of the war just as Walter returned from the forces. Walter now took control and soon had the factory up to full production.

Reflecting the tastes of the post war world he produced a vivid range of floral designs including Columbine, Hibiscus, Arum Lily and Bougainvillaea and other exotic designs.

The factory continued under Walters's leadership and was as successful as ever, but times change and the markets diminished.

In 1962 John W. Mooorcroft, half brother to Walter became sales manager. By the mid 1980's a new impetus was needed. Richard Dennis and Hugh Edwards who also invested in the firm provided this. The Moorcroft family sold most of their shares in 1984 and no longer run the company.

The Edwards family who now control it took that over in 1993.

Rachel Bishop joined Moorcroft in 1993, she was only it's fourth designer in almost a hundred years. She currently heads a talented team of eight designers in the Moorcroft Design Studio, which has ensured the company's products are now selling better than any time in it's history.

For more information go to www.moorcroft.co.uk

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