The Wedgwood Society of New York
April 2000 Lecture Topic and Meeting Notice

Out with the Old and In with the New!" - Barlaston 1940 to the Present

Speaker: Robert H Prescott Walker

Mr. Walker currently resides in N.Y. and has been quite busy as a lecturer and writer in the field of ceramics. His most recent article was published in the catalogue of the New York Ceramics Fair. It was entitled, "Conrad Dressler and the Medmenham Pottery." He was the head of applied arts for Sotheby's Chester and Sussex auction rooms, as well as the manager of the ceramics and glass department, Bonhams Knightbridge. Some of his publications include Collecting Lalique Glass, A Century of Change: Style and Design, and Collecting Shelly

Mention the word Wedgwood to anyone and you will receive instant recognition as a picture develops in his or her mind. What picture? And Is it necessarily the one that those on the Wedgwood board room or sales department want you to have? Or will their shoulders visibly drop. The preconceived ideas and notions that we have of the word "Wedgwood" or both a blessing and a brick wall. Wedgwood immediately implies the very best of quality, refinement and good taste, the calm, understated visual appearance of their wares homed on years of influence from refinement of the classical in design.

The trouble is that "taste" or "style" changes almost as frequently as fashions on the catwalk, especially in the last century, the twentieth century that is. Social habits, especially those involving eating, have also undergone huge alterations, mostly brought about due to television, the growth of "free expendable" personal capital, ready availability of restaurants, cafes, transport, etc, - Whether we like it or not it has been the relaxing of "formal" eating habits since the 19505 that has meant not only a shift away from traditional types of ware we might associate with witting off but also a need for new types of ware and functions that fit our new needs.

What I want to explore in my lecture is the effect that the `out with the old and in with the new scenario has had on Wedgwood in the post-war years to the present. From the move to a new purpose built factory, Barlaston, some twelve miles away from Stoke on Trent, the significance of new technological improvements in production to the raising of design standards. By present, I really mean "today" as the latest Wedgwood "Weekday Weekend" range, designed by the now head of design Simon Stevens, sits on display shelves in the stores.

To understand the huge strides that Wedgwood have made we need to look at the work of many designers employed by Wedgwood, some known and some not so well known. The work of Keith Murray and Eric Ravilious is an ideal starting point; the work of Robert Minkin, Norman Makinson and Peter Hall is probably less well known but just as significant. Equally significant are some of the contemporary issues such as the numerous "acquisitions and mergers" that went on In the 1960s and 1970s and the designer skills that consequently came about, The work of Susie Copper played a very important part in development of design. Later acquisitions such as Midwinter and Wilkinson's added a further dimension, not to mention the ownership of all the Clarice Cliff patterns.

How well Wedgwood as a company progresses towards its 250th anniversary in 2009 will certainly depend, at least a little, on the start it makes in the new-millennium. With a now very young design, team all looks well,

Place: The Lighthouse, 111 East 59th Street, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue, New York, NY

Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2000
Time: 8:00 PM Lecture

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