moorcroft collectible pottery
The Moorcroft legacy began in 1897 when 24 year old William Moorcroft was employed by James Macintyre & Co Ltd at the Washington Works in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent; a factory famed for its expert tube-liners and decorators. William Moorcrofl ran the decorative side of production, developing new shapes and patterns for both printed and enamelled ware. It was here that William first produced his characteristic slip trailed pots with naturalistic subjects, pieces that captured the imagination of the public both in the UK and overseas.
Moorcroft's early efforts include the famous Florian ware range, based around designs of British wild flowers such as cornflowers and narcissi. He also incorporated patterns with butterflies and fish. In 1902 Landscape designs were introduced, which have become highly sought-after by today's collectors - the 'Hazledene' and 'Moonlit Blue' patterns being particularly popular. Moorcroft's passion for botanical studies can easily be detected in his work as nature was an ongoing theme.
The Claremont pattern of 'Toadstools', painted in shades of yellow and red on a green ground made its appearance in 1910, shortly followed by the 'Pomegranate' pattern, which can be found on a large number of domestic and decorative wares. 'Pomegranate' has since become one of the most collectable of all William Moorcroft designs. In 1912 William's association with the Macintyre factory came to an end. But by May 1913, he was able to set up his own factory at Cobridge, in the heart of the Potteries, thanks to substantial funding from the famous London store Liberty's. During the collaboration with Liberty's (which continued until 1962), Moorcroft began to produce ware enriched with magnificent flambe glazes. This was developed to a level of artistic excellence that many in the ceramics field believe will never be bettered.
The 1920s was a successful decade for Moorcroft, sales boomed and in 1927 the factory was bestowed with its first Royal Appointment. As potter to Queen Mary, Moorcroft items could now bear the Royal Arms. William had managed to develop a pottery style based on designs, hand-drawn in raised slip and handpainted in colours that captured the qualities and vibrancy of both the arts and crafts movement and art nouveau. However, due to global recession and a shift in taste during the 1930s Moorcroft's fortunes went into decline.
sWalter Moorcroft, the elder son of William who had joined the family business in 1935, took control in 1945 when his father died of a stroke. Faced with the challenge of reviving the factory Walter retained the traditional Moorcroft handcraft production techniques while gradually introducing his own, more exotic designs. His famous flower patterns include hibiscus, bougainvillea, magnolia and lily - designs which added colour and life to a drab post-war Britain.
Walter also revived his father's famous flambe firing process, breathing life into the family business. After decades of prosperity the 1980s recession once again threw up major obstacles for the factory to overcome. In 1984 the Moorcroft family sold the bulk of their shares on the open market to brothers Michael, Stephen and Andrew Roper.
The Ropers tried in vain to mass produce Moorcroft and in 1987 the major shareholding was bought by Richard and Sally Dennis in partnership with Hugh and Maureen Edwards. Walter retired the same year and Sally took over as design director, while John Moorcroft, the last family shareholder, became managing director. Richard and Sally left to pursue their own Chinaworks business in 1992. Fortunately Sally's work had made a significant contribution towards the revival of the Moorcroft factory and once again the business was truly a leader in its field.
Until 1996, design was solely in the hands of highly skilled graduate Rachel Bishop, who joined Moorcroft in 1993. She was only the fourth designer in almost 100 years. However, in 1997 - the centenary year of the factory - the Moorcroft Design Studio was formed, comprising seven designers with Rachel as their head. A year later Moorcroft diversified by acquiring the family company of Kingsley Enamels, which made decorated enamel boxes for over 95 years. Moorcroft Enamels continue to produce the high quality enamel boxes. Diana Sissons of the William Sissons Gallery in York has been a passionate Moorcroft collector for over 30 years. "Its appeal is individual - it almost speaks to you," she says. "You either absolutely love it, or hate it. The skill in producing it - from clever design to finished article - never ceases to amaze.