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Spode and blue printing


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 the technology.  

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.

Caughley-trained 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.

  Robert Copeland video icon
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    clip of Robert  Copeland      
    discussing blue printing.    

 Early Spode underglaze blue wares.

Spode's  Mandarin pattern
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forest landcape
Spode's Forest Landscape pattern version II more on this pattern
wreath for a victor
"A Wreath for the Victor" from Spode's Greek series of patterns
 more on this pattern
Spode's famous Blue Italian pattern
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girl at well
Spode's Girl at the Well pattern
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floral series
Spode's Floral Series
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