Friday, December 12, 2008
This is Part III of a continuing series.
Josiah Wedgwood came from a family of potters. He was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, England, in 1730. When nine years old he left school and went to work in his brother's pottery. In 1744 he became apprenticed to his brother Thomas. In 1752 he formed a partnership with Thomas Alders and John Harrison, and in 1754 with Thomas Wheildon, a famous potter at Fenton. They made pottery of good quality and form, now very rare.
In 1758 he started business alone in a small way at Stoke, and in 1759 returned to Burslem. He leased the Ivy House Works, and enlarged them. Here he improved the cheap cream-colored ware of that day, aiming at both artistic and mechanical perfection. All through his life he gave personal attention to details and was an incessant worker in spite of ill health and many setbacks.
In 1761 he started the Black Works at Burslem for the manufacture of black basalt, and in 1763 leased the Brick House or Bell House Works in Burslem. These three factories he managed continuously until his final removal to Etruria in 1773. In 1764 he married.
In 1768 Wedgwood took as a partner Thomas Bentley, a literary man with artistic tastes, who helped him materially in advancing the ornamental end of the business. Bentley remained a large part of the time in London, pushing the sale of the ware.
In 1769 Wedgwood & Bentley built the large works at Etruria, a mile north of Stoke-on-Trent. It was here that the finest of the Wedgwood pottery was made, many special orders being executed for European royal families and other notable persons. It was the largest and best pottery works ever established in England up to that time. Here Wedgwood built a mansion for himself and a model village for his workmen.
In 1773 he invented the jasper ware, perfecting it before 1787. During this period Wedgwood also attached to his works several famous designers, including John Flaxman, an artist of rare Classic taste, whose work is now highly prized by connoisseurs.
Bentley died in 1780, and Wedgwood ran the factories alone until 1790, when he took into partnership his three sons, Josiah, John, and Thomas. In 1793 his nephew, Thomas Byerley, was also taken, in, and the firm became Wedgwood, Sons & Byerley.
To be Continued.
Pictured above: Antique Wedgwood Jasperware, Large Green Pitcher, Circa 1880 or prior. For more antique wedgwood pieces, see our CHSHops.com Mall Store at: http://pennysantiquesandwedgwoodpantry.chshops.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=19_27.