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Meet the Maker: Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795)

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Josiah Wedgwood by George Stubbs, 1795. Print.

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Wedgwood is perhaps one of the best known names in antique English ceramics. The Wedgwood company, founded in 1759, revolutionized the pottery industry by perfecting the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of ceramics. The man behind the famous English workshop was Josiah Wedgwood. He came by the profession quite naturally, as he was born into a family of potters. However, a childhood bout of small pox left him unable to work the potter’s wheel, so he turned to designing pottery instead.

Wedgwood worked with several partners before making a name for himself. One of his most notable collaborations was with Thomas Whieldon, whose unique stoneware with a tortoiseshell-like pattern can be immediately recognized as Whieldon ware by collectors.

Tortoiseshell design on Whieldon ware.
 Under his partnership with Whieldon, Wedgwood experimented with various glaze recipes and firing techniques to improve the ceramics. He recorded his techniques in a private book. Wedgwood took that spirit of creativity, as well as his secret ‘Experiment Book,’ with him to form his own workshop in 1759 at the age of twenty-nine.

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Interesting Facts about Josiah

He had many royal patrons, including Queen Charlotte of England and Russian empress Catherine II.

He was an abolitionist.

He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin.

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Shop Wedgwood

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Types of Wares

Rosso Antico

Rosso Antico” to describe his redware.

Creamware

A cream/white-colored glazed earthenware, creamware is also called Queensware after Queen Charlotte commissioned Wedgwood to create a set.

Black Basalt

Black basalt wares were made from clay that had coal in it, but the richer black that we see in finished products comes from the addition of manganese.

Jasperware

High-fired stoneware with an unglazed, matte finish, jasperware is perhaps one of Wedgwood’s most recognizable wares. It came in a variety of colors, notably light blue or “Wedgwood Blue,” but other colors such as dark blue, lilac, sage green, black, and yellow were produced. Often, white sculptural decorations covered the surface in relief.

Caneware

This type of unglazed stoneware is buff, or yellowish-cream, in color. Many of Wedgwood’s caneware featured bamboo motifs.

Drabware

Olive-grey unglazed stoneware.

Wedgwood & Byerley, York Street. St. James’s Square. For No. 2 of R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, 1809. Aquatint, 5½ x 9¼”. British Library.

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Invitation to an exhibition of Old Wedgwood Ware. Print. Victoria & Albert Museum, 15672:1.
Proof; "P 16", from Wedgwood's Catalogue of Earthenware and Porcelain (attributed title); designs reproducing 14 Wedgwood items, numbered "1457", "1554", "1553", "1459", "1461", "1565", "1467", "1538", "1566", "1481", "1469", "1556", "1486" and "1561". c.1816 Engraving and etching
Page from Wedgwood’s Catalogue of Earthenware and Porcelain, ca. 1816. Engraving and etching. British Museum, 1867,1012.223.
References

Dawson, Aileen. Masterpieces of Wedgwood. London: British Museum Press, 1984.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1795), BBC.

Mankowitz, Wolf. Wedgwood. Leicester: Magna Books, 1992.
The Genius of Wedgwood. Hilary Young, ed. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1995.

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2 thoughts on “Meet the Maker: Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795)

  1. […] Whieldon employed a young Josiah Wedgwood, upon whom he impressed his creamware […]

  2. […] Josiah Wedgwood was one of the first documented potters to introduce edge designs, doing so on creamware in the mid 1770s. Soon, other factories and potters noted his success and began producing edged wares of their own. Edged wares became popular as a cheaper alternative for extremely ornamented tableware. Their popularity peaked during the rather lengthy period of 1790-1860 in England and America. […]

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