History of the Wedgwood factory
The Wedgwood story began in 1759, when Josiah Wedgwood, aged just twenty-nine, started as an independent potter in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. He began to experiment avidly with clay, exploring its many possibilities.
During his lifetime he invented and produced three of Wedgwood’s most famous ceramic bodies – Queen’s Ware (1762), Black Basalt (1768) and Jasper (1774). These remain famous to this day.
Creative, energetic, an astute business man and patron of the arts, he quickly became Britain’s most inspired and successful ceramics pioneer. His genius led English pottery from a cottage craft to an art form and international industry.
He is today remembered as the “Father of English Potters”. His pioneer spirit, his vigorous design policy, his commitment to exacting standards of quality and his efforts to create affordable luxury products remain the values at the heart of the brand today.
In 1762, Josiah met Thomas Bentley, a Liverpool merchant who had travelled widely on the Continent and possessed a sound knowledge of classical and Renaissance art. With Bentley, he formed an intimate friendship and partnership, which was to last until Bentley’s death. The years of the partnership with Bentley were probably Josiah’s happiest and most prosperous, with his inventing, perfecting and capturing the fashion of the time for the neo-classical style.
Wedgwood’s enduring appeal among the world’s Royal Families and Heads of State began with Queen Charlotte, who ordered a set of cream-coloured earthenware that pleased her so much that Josiah Wedgwood was granted permission to style himself ‘Potter to Her Majesty’ and call his innovative cream ware ‘Queen’s Ware’. A few years later the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia ordered a service in Queen’s Ware for fifty people, which consisted of of 952 hand-painted pieces of gardens and English scenery. Today this service is kept in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
Throughout its history, Wedgwood has collaborated with the most famous artists of the day. In the twentieth century, Rex Whistler, John Skeaping, Eric Ravilious, Keith Murray, Arnold Machin, Richard Guyatt, Eduardo Paolozzi and David Gentleman have all designed for Wedgwood; reflecting Josiah’s policy of commissioning work from John Flaxman, George Stubbs, Matthew Bolton and other celebrated artists of the late eighteenth century.
Today, the Wedgwood collections are designed in England by the Wedgwood Design Studio. Jasper Conran, one of the UK’s leading fashion designers, and Vera Wang, the acclaimed authority in bridal elegance, also created distinguished collections for Wedgwood, whilst Beatrix Potter’s original watercolours adorn Peter Rabbit collections.
Susannah Margaretta “Daisy” Makeig-Jones (1881–1945)
Daisy was a pottery designer for Wedgwood. She is best known for her “Fairyland Lustre” series.
Makeig-Jones was born in Wath-upon-Dearne near Rotherham, Yorkshire, the eldest of seven children. Her father, K. Geoffrey Makeig-Jones, was of Welsh descent and was a medical doctor, and her mother was the daughter of Thomas Reeder, a solicitor. Makeig-Jones was taught by a governess at home, then attended a boarding school near Rugby. After her family moved to Torquay, she entered the Torquay School of Art. After an introduction from a relative to the managing director of Cecil Wedgwood, Makeig-Jones joined the firm as an apprentice painter in 1909.
After two years at Wedgwood, Makeig-Jones, clearly talented, started to design tableware in 1911. Attracted to the fanciful, she began to design Oriental dragon patterns in 1913. She moved on to her signature Fairyland Lustre design in 1915, a year after the war in Europe started.
The Fairyland Lustre line proved immensely popular across the Atlantic during the Roaring 20s, providing Wedgwood a popular and pricey product with which to penetrate the lucrative American market. But soon Makeig-Jones’ Art Nouveau fairies faded from fashion and the line was discontinued in 1929.