Josiah Spode I was the first potter to commercially produce
underglaze blue printed earthenware. Most historians believe he used
methods developed by John Baddeley and his son Ralph
whose technical abilities eclipsed their business acumen. It may have
been during one of their repeated financial crises that Spode acquired
From the very first, Spode’s printed pottery
exhibited an accomplished artistry, due in part to his skilled engraver
Thomas Lucas. Lucas trained under Thomas Turner at the Caughley
porcelain factory in Shropshire before moving, with his printer,
Richards, to the Spode factory in 1783. A second Caughley-trained
engraver Thomas Minton moved to London to partner with his
brother in a retail china shop. In London he engraved patterns for the
pottery trade, including Josiah Spode. Minton moved from London to
Staffordshire in 1792 to be closer to his customers until in 1796 he
established his own factory in partnership with Joseph Poulson.
engravers would have contributed expertise in the art of underglaze
printing on porcelain and intimate familiarity with designs in the
Chinese taste. To recreate these products in earthenware Spode had to
adapt the process, creating a more flexible paper for the printing
process and developing a glaze recipe that brought the color of the
black-blue cobalt to a brilliant blue perfection. This combination of
technology and artistic talent had Spode producing the first underglaze
blue-printed earthenware in Stoke-upon-Trent by 1785.
The Chinese-style blue printed patterns such as “Buffalo” and “Mandarin”
of the 1780s, “Willow” and “Forest Landscape” of the 1790s
gradually gave way to new fashions. In
1806 Spode introduced both “Bamboo” and “Greek” patterns. By
the 1810s western topographical views
were also popular – “Rome” appeared in
1811, “Indian Sporting” by 1815
and “Blue Italian” in
1816. Pottery fashions constantly change. Many of those new designs
last only a few years, but several of the patterns Josiah Spode I and II
introduced remained popular into the present century.
| Click to watch a video |
clip of Robert Copeland
discussing blue printing.
Early Spode underglaze blue wares.