Collection

‘Organic form' Bowl

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Ceramics

Date: 1948-1957

Designer: Mitzi Cunliffe

Nationality of Designer: American

Manufacturer: Pilkington’s Lancastrian Pottery&Tiles

Manufacturers Location: Clifton Junction, Greater Manchester, England (U.K)

Material: White Earthenware and glaze

Dimensions: Diameter 40cm

Purchase Price: £2

Abstract:

An organic form ceramic bowl

Provenance:

Purchased in a second hand shop by Adam Sutherland

Personal history/nominator:

Such a great name and I love the idea of being in the very thick of radical art world in Paris and then moving to Manchester at a pretty grim time.  

That she made the slightly invisible BAFTA award also apeals to me - the sort of thing you forget that someone once designed.

Adaptions/renovations:

None - good condition, some crazing

Why it's in the Collection:

Pilkington/Royal Lancastrian was a typical Arts and Crafts factory aiming at the high end and employing artists to give thier product a little extra sparkle.

In Mitzi Cuniliffe they found that little extra although it seems she did not do many designs for them.

William Burton was a trained scientist and also an authority on the history of ceramic art. His associates at Pilkington’s were inspired by the philosophy of the Arts and Craft Movement, and in particular, the workings of William Morris and John Ruskin. He suggested collaboration with artists and designers, and Lancastrian Pottery works became hight quality examples of the Art and Crafts Movement.

About the Designer/Maker:

Mitzi Cunliffe (1918 - 2006) was born in New York, and educated at the city’s Art Students League (1930 - 1933) and Columbia University before moving to Paris’ progressive Academie Colarossi, famous for nurturing female students such a Camille Claudel. In her youth she produced romantic and beautiful free-standing figures, fairly traditional ones in marbles, stone, wood and bronze, and her works were admired by Le Corbusier. In 1949, she married English historian Marcus Cunliffe and that suddenly brought her to Manchester in 1949, and a leap in direction.

She is best known for having designed the golden theatrical mask awards for stars of film and television by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. 

 But she also worked with a wide variety of materials on a scale ranging from jewellery to the decoration of big buildings so called “sculpture by the yard”. Her design work extend to mass-produced textiles for David Whitehead and Tootal Broadhurst;  pottery, ceramics and tiles for Pilkington and jewellery for a range of clients - some of which was selected for the first international jewellery exhibition organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Between 1967 and 1971, examples of her work toured 20 British and European cities.

 

About the Manufacturer:

Pilkington’s Lancastrian Pottery&Tiles was a manufacturer of tiles, vases and bowls. The company was established in 1892 at Clifton Junction, alongside Fletcher’s Canal. 

In 1888 the Pilkington family, who owned collieries in Manchester, sunk two new shafts. These had to be abandoned because of flooding, but in the process good quality red marl clay was discovered and William Burton suggested that the clay could be used for ceramic tiles. 

From an early date small pottery items were produced to demonstrate experimental glaze techniques. In 1897 potteries were distinguished from tiles and by 1903 the factory had developed an opalescent ceramic glaze called Lancastrian, named after Lancashire where the factory was seated. Royal Lancastrian were produced from 1906, became popular in Pilkington’s pottery line. The range of glaze techniques is one of the most striking and memorable aspects of Lancastrian Pottery. In 1913 King George V and Queen Mary visited Lord Derby, who proudly displayed Lancastrian vases. It was then that permission was granted for the Royal warrant and the firm became Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian Pottery Company. Production of art pottery was stopped in the 1930’s, although title production continued. Today the site is occupied by Pilkington’s Group Plc.

 

Bibliography & Further information

Pilkington’s Tiles 1891-2010, Angela Corbett; Barry Corbett, Pilkington’s Lancastrian Pottery Society, 2013, ISBN:9780954698010