Sponsored by Heart of Worcestershire College

The Worcester factory became famous for its mastery of a characteristic rich blue scale ground, carefully painted entirely by hand, which was an effective foil for painted decoration of fabulous exotic birds and insects.
Enjoy this Showstopper Story.

During the 1760s the Worcester factory developed vibrant ground colours in imitation of those used at the Sèvres factory in France. This style was also copied by the Chelsea factory in London, and the two English concerns probably operated in competition. Deep underglaze blue backgrounds with a high standard of gilding and decorative painting commanded a very high price with the best customers. The cobalt blue used for this was difficult to control because it often ran and smudged during the firing.

The Worcester factory mastered a technique to manage this – and their characteristic blue scale ground, carefully painted entirely by hand, was an effective foil for painted decoration of fabulous birds, flowers and insects. Interest in exotic birds was high in Britain, as all over Europe, from around 1750 onwards. Here they appear in highly stylised form.

Unglazed wasters from the Worcester factory site show clearly how the scale effect was achieved. First, the reserved rococo or mirror-shaped panels were marked out and then a light wash of cobalt oxide was applied over all of the ground area. Once dry, scales were carefully painted in the same cobalt oxide, but less diluted. When glazed and fired, the effect was an even and pleasing background like fish scales.

Gilding, which was not used in the very earliest years at Worcester, was the last decoration added.  It was prepared from gold mixed with honey to make it workable and adhere it to the surface, applied with a fine brush. The honey burns off in a low temperature final firing leaving the gold film which required burnishing, or polishing.

In the 18th century coffee, like tea, grew in popularity as a drink enjoyed at home.  Women could not visit public coffee houses so fashionable serving ware like this Worcester Coffee Pot enabled it to be drunk at home in style with friends and family.

Date: 1770
Material: Soft paste porcelain
Factory: Dr Wall
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