The name "Burslem Pottery" has been around for well over a hundred years. Founded in 1894 by C.F. Bailey at Scotia Works, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent and made decorated earthenware for domestic use. Sadly, by 1935 Burslem pottery had simply faded away, but today it has been revived and thrives under the ownership of expert ceramic artist, Tracy Bentley.
The art, which Burslem Pottery produces today originates from the time that Burslem Pottery was a Moorcroft company and the processes, passed on to it from that company gave it the ability to create defined design images in stoneware.
The quirky, sculptured birds, reptiles and animals and sgraffito line work art are exceptional and unique.
Today, Burslem Pottery is owned by well-known ceramic artist, Tracy Bentley she and her team proudly continues to produce fine quality ceramics from deep in the heart of the Staffordshire Potteries, she especially continues the tradition of making unique stoneware by hand from start to finish, from a bag of clay, and proceeds all the way through to the finished product whether it is a Martin Brothers inspired grotesque bird or animal, or a unique designed vase, lamp or tile.
Tracy honed her craft through many years spent painting ceramics for Cobridge Stoneware and Moorcroft, as well as some time with Country Artists and Border Fine Arts. Her marks are 'TB' and 'TAB'. Tracy brought the company when the opportunity arose in 2009.
Tracy works with Dave Jones an experienced Caster of fine ceramics. Dave excels at making the birds and animals, sculpted and designed by Andrew Hull and Rob Tabbanor.
For over 350 years, across the world, the potteries have been recognised as the spiritual home of ceramics. Burslem is known as the Mother town of the Potteries, and it was here that Josiah Wedgwood began to develop modern pottery production techniques with his wonderful creative flair.
Burslem Pottery Today.
Tracy continues the tradition of producing unique hand-crafted stoneware, producing fine quality collectable ceramics from the original Cobridge Stoneware/Moorcroft moulds, transforming raw clay into beautifully decorated birds, animals, vases, lamps and tiles.
Burslem pottery studio can now be found at the rejuvenated Middleport Pottery, Port Street, Burslem. Collectors, old and new come to visit to seek new and treasured pieces of art. The studio is open Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 am until 3.00 pm and by special viewing appointment. Please give the factory a quick call before your visit then we can ensure one of the team is available to show you round.
Telephone 07980 016588 Burslem pottery
Continuing our Cobridge Stoneware story
Moorcroft owner Hugh Edwards set up Cobridge Stoneware in 1998 and, although it only had a short life, its products gained great acclaim and a loyal following.
The company name came from Cobridge an area near to the Mothertown of pottery production Burslem, and stoneware is the type of clay used.
The decorated ware needs to be fired at extremely high temperatures, meaning stoneware production is far from easy to make. Not surprisingly it initially attracted few innovators due to the cost of producing lots of 'misses to achieve the few 'hits'.
There were however two significant pioneers, who were prepared to trial hundreds of pieces, until they achieved a level of artwork that they were happy with. Two of these were in 1898 William Howson-Taylor founder of Ruskin Pottery in Smethwick, and the Martin Brothers, who were based in Southall, in Middlesex. Cobridge Stoneware was greatly influenced by these innovators, and the Martin Brothers were particularly inspiring to Andrew Hull. Hull embraced the 'Wallybirds' of the Martin Brothers and also admired their use of sgraffito, a technique using grooves or scratches to reveal different layers of glaze. Sgraffito enables fine glazes enriched with metallic oxide colours to be painted into bisque ware, and keeps the colours in place.
Cobridge Stoneware continued to trade until 2005, producing some much loved pieces of ceramic art, designs such as Cobridge, Ocean Traveller, Cathedral Whispers, and Cauldon Lock.
Burslem Pottery's ceramic art owes a great deal to the influence of Cobridge Stoneware. Tracy Bentley a former Cobridge paintress, now owns the majority of the moulds used by the company. Importantly these include the collectable vase and the grotesque bird moulds.
Robert Wallace Martin set up the Martin Brothers pottery at the end of the nineteenth century. Their workshop was situated at Southall, in Middlesex.
They produced beautiful vases of insects, flowers, fish and reptiles. They etched the designs into the vase, using a technique known as sgraffito.
The Martin Brothers fame derives from their models of grotesque birds known as "Wally birds". These were made by hand in stoneware with each piece being unique and individual. The Martin Brothers birds were thought to be eccentric. Why else would anyone be able to make these truly fantastic yet grotesque birds and face pots? However, at the time there was a gothic revival spreading through out the country. Because the Martin brothers pottery was small they could faithfully reproduce the styles better than the larger mass producers of ceramics. The Martin brothers legacy still has the ability to inspire potters today. One such inspired person is Andrew Hull a Cobridge Stoneware designer. Who produced his own brand of grotesque birds and animals. Burslem pottery today produces these models.
Martin ware is still sort after, and is extremely valuable, some pieces fetching over twenty thousand pounds.