Taking a break from working in my filthy overalls, I’ve been looking at old manuals of pottery.

The Arts and Crafts movement stimulated an interest in pottery and other applied arts, and as well as the famous art potteries (like the Ruskin Pottery, Pilkington’s Lancastrian, William de Morgan’s and Bernard Moore’s) there was an upsurge in amateur pottery. Pottery painting became especially popular with women in the 1870s and there was an annual exhibition of their work in London (left). Pottery manuals aimed at the craft potter, amateur and professional, were published from the 1880s, usually with a section on painting. At the end of the century the art schools began to teach pottery and china painting for the craft worker.

The great challenge for the potter was high-fired ceramics. Hard paste porcelain had been discovered in the 1700s by Meissen, after centuries of fruitless experiment, but decorating at high temperatures, rather than with low-temperature enamels, remained elusive. A big step forward was taken at Sèvres by Taxile Doat, who published a series of papers on the topic in 1903, Grande Feu Ceramics, with an American edition two years later. The wonderfully-named Mr. Doat began the development in art pottery that resulted in the reduced stoneware made at the Leach Pottery in the 1920s.

This, however, is just a pretext for posting a picture of Taxile Doat at work in his bow tie, stiff collar and well-polished shoes, which should be an example to all potters and which I intend to emulate.

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