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. This version of Burslem Pottery made decorated earthenware for domestic use. However, by 1935 Burslem Pottery had simply faded away.
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. The business is now owned by Tracy Bentley who continues to produce fine quality ceramics from deep in the heart of the Staffordshire Potteries, Tracy and her small team continue the tradition of making unique stoneware by hand from start to finish, from a bag of clay, all the way through to the finished product. 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 was contracted from Moorcroft to work with Jerry at Burslem pottery, though eventually, she moved to work there full time, finally plumping to buy the company when the opportunity arose in 2009.
Tracy works with Steve Shaw has spent more time working in pottery than he cares to remember! Steve excelled at making the birds and animals, sculpted and designed by Andrew Hull and Rob Tabbanor. Steve also produces his own designs for Burslem Pottery ware.
The potteries have long been recognized as the spiritual home of ceramics across the world for over 350 years. 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 and her team continue the tradition of producing unique hand-crafted stoneware, producing fine quality collectable ceramics from those original Cobridge Stoneware/Moorcroft moulds, transforming raw clay into beautifully decorated birds, animals, vases, lamps and tiles.
Burslem pottery can now be found at The Old Post Office, Price Street, Burslem.
Moorcroft owner Hugh Edwards officially set up Cobridge Stoneware in 1998, and although it only had a short life, its products met with much acclaim.
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, so not surprisingly it 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 founded 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. Scraffito enables fine glazes enriched with metallic oxide colours to be painted into bisque ware, and keeps the colours in place.
The artwork of Cobridge Stoneware shows signs of the influence of these two great manufacturers. Especially the Martin Brothers, not only in the wally birds that were such an inspiration on the work of Cobridge designer Andrew Hull but also in their use of sgraffito. This is a method of transferring a design to the vase using the incision of narrow grooves. This enables the fine glazes enriched with metallic oxide colours to be brushed on, and most important to stay 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.
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, etching the designs into the vase, 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, each piece was unique and individual. The Martin Brothers were thought to be eccentric, why else would anyone be able to make these truly fantastic, grotesque birds and face pots,but at the time there was a gothic revival spreading throughout the country, because the Martins 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 person is Andrew Hull a Cobridge Stoneware designer, who produced his own brand of grotesque birds and animals. Burslem pottery still produces these models to this day.
Today Martin ware is still sort after, and is extremely valuable, some pieces fetching over one hundred thousand pounds. ( see claude # 6 and the BBC article )