14/07/2023 General News
Fashions in ceramics come and go, but one name which has never really faded is Moorcroft. And now one of the best collections of Moorcroft pottery to come to auction for many years is set to go under the hammer at Keys later this month.
William Moorcroft’s work was first launched into the world in 1897 while he was just 24 and employed at James Macintyre & Co in Stoke-on-Trent, writes David Broom.
Moorcroft was a graduate of what is now the Royal College of Art in London, and he brought a striking modernist approach to design. His first innovative range of pottery, Florian Ware, won him a Gold Medal at the 1904 World Fair in St Louis, Missouri.
His work was soon being purchased by prestigious retailers such as Liberty, Harrods and Tiffany, and in 1913, with the aid of a substantial investment from Liberty, Moorcroft was able to leave Macintyre and set up his own factory.
William Moorcroft continued designing right up until his death in 1945, when his son Walter took over; he would remain in charge until his retirement in 1987. The Moorcroft design studio still exists (as does the factory), under the leadership of Rachel Bishop, who joined in 1993 aged 24 – the same age that William Moorcroft joined Macintyre nearly 100 years previously.
Moorcroft was a hugely innovative designer, introducing completely new techniques including ‘tubelining’, a way of decorating the pottery by outlining the design by hand in a trailed slip (a bit like piping icing onto a cake), and experimenting with high temperature flambé techniques, which produces a high glaze with vibrant colours.
Because the Moorcroft factory is still operating, this is a maker which collectors can start to collect in an accessible and affordable way; but it is early 20th century pieces which are most prized in the auction room.
Such pieces come up rarely, and usually in small numbers, so we are very excited to be selling an extraordinary collection in our Summer Fine Sale at the end of this month, including rare designs, pieces made exclusively for Liberty, and striking flambé glazed pottery.
Originating from just one lifelong collection, the 16 stunning pieces range from the original Florian ware, through Claremont and Hazeldene patterns, to mid century vases in the Spring Flowers design. This is as fine a collection of Moorcroft as I can remember selling, and one of the best to appear in any auction room for many years.
Perhaps because his designs were so far ahead of their time, the appeal of Moorcroft pottery has been a constant in the saleroom over the years. Despite their age, they feel modern, and the simplicity of the designs distinguish them from more elaborate and ornate Victorian pottery.
It is difficult to imagine what an impact such an approach must have had in the early years of the 20th century, as Britain emerged from over 70 years of Victorian culture. These are timeless pieces which are not out of place in the most modern homes today.
Keys Fine Sale takes place on Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th and Friday 28thJuly.