Spode China: The Pioneer of English Porcelain

Spode china is a type of fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories that was produced by the Spode factory in England. The Spode period dated from 1770, when Josiah Spode I founded the factory in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. He was a master potter and a pioneer of the ceramic industry, who invented or perfected the bone china and the underglaze blue printing techniques. In this blog post, I will give you a brief overview of the history of Spode china, from its invention to its innovation.

The Invention of Spode China

Josiah Spode I was born in 1733 in Stoke-on-Trent, into a family of potters. He started his career as an apprentice to Thomas Whieldon, one of the leading potters of the time, where he learned and experimented with various types of clay, glazes, and colors. In 1770, he decided to start his own pottery business in Stoke-on-Trent, where he rented a small factory. He soon established himself as a skilled and innovative potter, producing high-quality and diverse wares, such as creamware, pearlware, stoneware, and porcelain1

Josiah Spode I is credited with the invention of two extremely important techniques that were crucial to the worldwide success of the English pottery industry in the century to follow. The first technique was the bone china, which he developed around 1790. Bone china was a type of hard-paste porcelain that was made from kaolin clay and bone ash, and fired at high temperatures. It was white, translucent, and durable, and became the standard for English porcelain. The second technique was the underglaze blue printing, which he perfected in 1783-84. Underglaze blue printing was a technique that allowed for the transfer of intricate designs from engraved copper plates to the porcelain surface, before glazing and firing. It was inspired by the Chinese and Japanese porcelain, and produced some of the most popular patterns, such as the Willow Pattern and the Blue Italian2

The Innovation of Spode China

Josiah Spode I died in 1797, and was succeeded by his son, Josiah Spode II, who ran the factory until his death in 1827. He expanded and improved the factory, and hired talented artists and designers, such as John Flaxman, William Copeland, and William Taylor Copeland, who created original and artistic decorations for the china. He also diversified the product range, offering not only tableware, but also ornamental and sculptural pieces, such as vases, figurines, and clocks. He also exported the china to various countries, such as France, Germany, Russia, and the United States3

Spode’s china quickly gained popularity and recognition, both in England and abroad, for its beauty, quality, and affordability. It attracted the patronage of the royal and aristocratic families, as well as the cultural and artistic elites, who commissioned and collected it as a sign of elegance and refinement. Spode also received numerous awards and honors for his china, such as the Grand Prix at the Paris World Exhibition in 1800, the Gold Medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1804, and the Grand Prix at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1810. Spode also became a member of the Royal Society of Arts in 1805, and was appointed as a Royal Potter in 1806.

The Conclusion

Spode china is a remarkable example of artistic achievement and innovation, which spans over half a century and reflects the history and culture of England and Europe. It is admired and valued by collectors and connoisseurs all over the world, who appreciate its beauty, quality, and diversity. It is also a living and evolving art form, which continues to produce new and original works, thanks to the talent and creativity of its artists and craftsmen. Spode china is the pioneer of English porcelain, which has become a national treasure and a universal delight.

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