World Of Wedgwood

Throughout history ceramics have played an important role in the phenomenon of cultural transfer. For centuries China, Korea and Japan have influenced each other’s aesthetics, practices and technologies. Subsequent trade with the West, and the imitation and assimilation of Oriental styles in the late 17th and 18th centuries greatly influenced the development of new ceramic traditions in Europe.

During North Staffordshire’s early industrialisation, the artistic/technological advances that evolved out of this period of cultural borrowing, is of particular interest to Brownsword. Demand for objects that imitated expensive Chinese porcelains resulted in significant material innovations and new techniques that changed the organisation and structure of early factories. Perhaps the most important development was that of a local workforce becoming increasingly skill specialised through new divisions of labour. This surge in the sophistications of knowledge, honed and passed down from generation to generation, is exemplified in the collections of the Wedgwood Museum. In citing this early period of innovation, Brownsword juxtaposes industrial crafts that due to transitions in the ceramics industry in recent decades remain endangered. Working with former china flower maker Rita Floyd, Brownsword raises questions surrounding the preservation of marginalised skill as a valuable aspect of Britain’s intangible cultural heritage