Wedgwood: A Story of Splendor

3 minute read

30-5197_3 Wedgwood First Edition Numbered Copy of the Portland Vase

The ceramics of Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) rank amongst the most expert and stunning in the world. Throughout the development and craft of pottery in England throughout the 18th century, there exist few names that speak to perfection like Wedgwood. Having no equal, Wedgwood and his workshops transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary and elevating the craft of ceramics manufacturing into a grand industry.

Coming from a long line of pottery manufacturers, Wedgwood was immediately immersed with the craft. He was just 9 when he was thrown into the realm of pottery throwing. However, when Wedgwood contracted smallpox, it left his knee permanently damaged and unable to work the pedal on the potter’s wheel, forcing him to concentrate more on modeling and experimentation. With this occurrence, few imagined that his craft and talent would achieve the immense success that it did. Yet, these early trials only served to motivate him to achieve the highest level of precision in his work.

Crafted of light blue jasper dip in the Brewster shape, the teapot’s straight sides display beautifully applied classical figures Crafted of light blue jasper dip in the Brewster shape, the teapot’s straight sides display beautifully applied classical figures

Before Wedgwood, ceramics manufacture was still considered a peasant craft: methods of production were still primitive and potters were not looked at with high regard. In all, pottery before Wedgwood was merely a modest trade. Faced with the dilemma of crafting fine ceramics in the changing tastes of the time, Wedgwood changed the game of ceramics manufacturing. He became a pioneer in his field. His eye for fine craft prompted him into uncharted territories of pottery design and innovations. Holding a thorough understanding of the chemistry of ceramics, Wedgwood was able to craft what had never before been imagined.

Only created for a short period of time during the 1920s, crimson jasper pieces by Wedgwood are incredibly rare Only created for a short period of time during the 1920s, crimson jasper pieces by Wedgwood are incredibly rare

When it came to his most notable works, there is no question that his greatest success lies in the development of a new range of materials, inventive styles, and more durable wares. Wedgwood’s first distinctive achievement as an independent potter was his invention of new type of stoneware called Jasperware. Ground-breaking in the field, some described this as most important development in the history of ceramics since the Chinese discovery of porcelain 1,000 years earlier. Masterfully crafting wares out of this new material, Wedgwood also looked back to Classical motifs and neo-classical, drawing tastes away from the opulent Rococo. Adorning his pieces with applied neo-classical foliate accents and relief figures, his pieces began to take on a personality of their own.

His success didn’t stop there. A short number of years later, Wedgwood crafted a cream-colored tea and coffee service for Queen Charlotte, known as Queensware, that brought him international recognition. It was later in his already established career that Wedgwood’s career reached its pinnacle: creating a copy of the Ancient Roman Portland Vase. This crowning achievement cemented his legacy.

In the years after the development of this sophisticated stoneware, the importance of Wedgwood is still far reaching. Undeniably, the Wedgwood’s early experimentations were a turning point in the industry. With their unmistakable designs and forms, the splendor of Wedgwood ceramics continues to captivate experts and consumers alike. Today, the mere mention of the name Wedgwood evokes thoughts of innovative designs and high quality wares.

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