Monthly Archives: April 2013

Genius of Josiah Wedgwood

On the iPlayer this week, and a great watch: The Genius of Josiah Wedgwood

Enjoyable trawl through all things Wedgwood, through pots, marketing, science and anti-slavery campaigning.
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Wedgwood Blue

Wedgwood Blue
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Wedgwood

Wedgwood Museum
Image: Guardian

During a few days spent visiting my family, I finally (it’s somewhere i’ve been meaning to visit for years) paid a visit to the Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-On-Trent.

Today, Stoke is an area that faces significant challenges in the form of serious deprivation (50% of inhabitants live in an area that is amongst the top 10% most deprived areas in England), high unemployment and the poor health of inhabitants. Back in the 17th-19th centuries it was a haven for all things ceramic, and was a prosperous place, with a significantly larger population than it has today. In the Potteries (the greater Stoke area) there were numerous companies working to produce ceramics that were shipped all over the world, used at the finest tables and for everyday domestic purposes – a shining example of British design and ingenuity.

Tray of Jasper Trials I had a GREAT day at Wedgwood. The museum was stuffed to the gills with examples of work, both the finished articles and the experiments various members of the Wedgwood family used to create pieces.

Amongst the beautiful gilded plates and the familiar dusty-blue cameos, there were drawers and drawers of tiny test tiles showing experiments with clay and glazes. These methodical trials were fascinating, as they showed the blend of science, creativity and business acumen that ceramics can involve.

Image: courtesy Wedgwood – Tray of Jasper Trials – 1773

The best part of my day was the factory tour. Given that it was mid-week, the museum was pretty quiet, so me and my Mum got to have a private tour with our friendly and knowledgeable guide. I spent most of the forty minutes walking around like a dork, with a wide grin on my face as our guide led us around the factory.

I was so excited to see everything, the entire process from the vats where they mix up the clay to the workers carefully applying the gold to the edges of plates.

Image: FashionBite (alas no photos in the factory allowed)

Wedgwood factory It was really interesting to see how things are done on a large scale and then compare this with my experience making and teaching ceramics.

There was a mixture of hand-thrown and mould-made ware, so although there was an element of automation, there was still a large amount of human input.

I was pleased to see the employees finishing off pieces all had a mug of tea at their workbenches, and it was interesting to see the number and variety of hand moisturisers people used in an attempt to ward off the destruction of their skin.

Even the mould-made ware had to have the seams taken off (fettling), be turned and then smoothed (all by hand), so my horror at the prices of the finished pieces in the on site shop was tempered a bit when I saw the efforts put in by the workers. The high-end stuff was glazed five times before having the gold applied twice more, so a plate setting you back £800 didn’t seem as insane as it first appeared; that said, our guide commented that one Russian client recently ordered pieces for a forty place setting. Yikes.

I explained to our guide that I was an art teacher, and how interesting it all was to me, and I asked if the company takes on apprentices. He told me that they do, and that it takes between two and seven years to become competent, and even then employees are still monitored closely by master potters.

It made me happy to think that the myriad skills I saw were not being lost (seeing apprentices working was a bonus) but at the same time I know that a large chunk of what is produced under the Wedgwood name is made abroad, for example in Indonesia and China. All the prestige stuff is made at the Barlaston factory, but the more everyday isn’t, which is a shame; Wedgwood is part of a US owned conglomerate that includes Royal Doulton and Waterford Crystal, and of course many smaller companies have been absorbed, for example Minton.

Another reason for visiting was the news a couple of years back that the museum and collection might have to be sold off to plug a hole in the Wedgwood pension fund that was created when the company went into administration. The museum’s archives have been recognised as important by UNESCO, and to think that such a wonderful collection with insight into not just manufacturing but social history too could be broken up and sold to the highest bidder is hugely sad.

So, somewhere to visit as soon as you can. I’d really recommend it.

Also, it has an awesome factory outlet selling seconds and discontinued ceramics and glass which is definitely worth a trip to…
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That Thing:

Where it’s very cold outside and your thighs are freezing through the jeans that don’t quite fit and the rubbing of the fabric against your cold skin becomes so unbearable it’s all you can think about and is so uncomfortable you have to seek out M&S and try something on just so you can clutch and claw at your skin like an auto-zombie.
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One Year

It’s rolling around to a year since Coppell and Meathead left my life. Time has flown whilst at the same time dragging. Dragging, in that I still have unresolved thoughts and feelings about him, unresolved in the sense that I still have them, when I wish I didn’t.

As time has passed these have lessened in frequency and strength, but I think that, until I am in a new relationship, there will always be lingering issues. I’ve written about this before- I need new memories to obliterate the old, and from experience I know that something casual will not give me what I need.

The ending of the relationship and Coppell’s behaviour towards me was awful. It was the most difficult experience of my life to date, but I can look back and see that there were problems in the relationship at the time, but that I gained much from the experience.

Problems?

Coppell. As someone who was going through a divorce (which was something he didn’t reveal when we first got together), he wasn’t ready for a relationship. He was enamoured with me, and the idea of being in a relationship with me, but the reality of the situation was rather different. He needed time to work through his thoughts on the matter, which he didn’t give himself. Lying his way out of our relationship, and his lies afterwards indicated a real lack of maturity and understanding. Also, the after effects of a terribly difficult upbringing were still evident, in ways that I do not think he was fully aware of.

He wasn’t very reflective, and this really showed in how he ended things and his poor behaviour towards me. Unable to recognise or admit his errors, he is destined to repeat his mistakes, unless he is forced to review his actions. The manner in which he seemed to instantly justify his poor choices was disturbing to me; where I was seeking deeper emotional connection, I think that for a seemingly sensitive person he sought to keep things “light” and non-committal. Again, this is not what I was seeking, and because he lacked self-awareness, I paid the price.

Gains?

I talk to people more. In that, when i’m out-and-about I talk to fellow citizens. It often comes out a bit clunkily, but I engage much more than I did in the past; I think this is from Coppell’s confidence and my time spent in the States. As someone who is an introvert and enjoys thinking rather too much, this is quite a difference.

I stood up for myself and my needs when everything fell apart, and would not let myself be used, which is a huge change from my past relationships. I communicated clearly what I wanted, which again is a difference; this is definitely due to Coppell, as he encouraged me to talk about stuff, checking in on how I was doing to gauge my feelings. Talking about how I feel is often very difficult for me.

For the first time in a relationship I gained sexual satisfaction. Coppell was most definitely GGG, which is what I always hope to find in a partner. Although, I always felt like I wanted more sex and intimacy than I got, and initiating is still an area of difficulty for me; this is something I was getting more confident in doing, but I never felt entirely comfortable i.e. secure in doing so, as I saw Coppell so infrequently.

As much as it’s rather painful after the fact, for the first time my partner clearly articulated just how wonderful he thought me. For the first time, I was beautiful. This meant a lot to me, and still does (even if it makes me weep to recall it now), as I am not someone used to compliments, and I am not a woman who either is – or chooses to aspire to being – typically attractive.

Just as being repeatedly turned down for jobs builds your ability to cope with rejection, I give less of a shit about going on dates. When me and Coppell hit it off it was so easy, with very little angst ahead of time. I’m not sure if this is entirely positive however, as I need to take care that being less worried about dating does not translate into “I don’t care about you” instead.

Thanks to delicious dinners at a Pittsburgh Middle-Eastern fast-food establishment, I found I could indeed enjoy houmous, which I had previously thought disgusting. It now makes up one of my favourite dinners: buttered wholegrain toast slathered with houmous, cheddar and topped with a poached egg. YUMMMM.

As I searched for ways to feel better post-relationship, I started to seriously save and budget, for the first time. This meant I could move out of the shit hole I had lived in for getting on four years, that was no good at all for my well-being.

I am someone who tends to hover around the same weight for years at a time, going up or down a couple of kilos either way. Since moving home, i’ve lost weight beyond those couple, and this has been quite a surprise to me as it was so unexpected. I guess I was comfort eating to a certain extent to cope with my poor living conditions and lack of hope? I dunno.

Other good things: I have a new-found appreciation of dogs, in that I can see how much wonderful they bring to humanity. Before I met Meathead I had more experience with babies than I did dogs, so I was blown away by her weeing-when-excited fabulousness.

I still miss Meathead :(

At the moment, Coppell is someone whom I consider to have a lot of potential to be a great partner, but not for me at the current time. He needs a hell of a lot of time to work through things, and he needs a lot of time to become more mature in how he handles things. Right personal qualities for me, wrong time for him. The relationship showed me a glimpse of what could be, but that’s not reality.

Post-relationship i’ve been on two dates, which in a year is better than my previous two-and-a-half-year “performance”. There’s absolutely no-one on the horizon to speak of, which gets me down at times – I tend to not give a shit the majority of my days, but then wallow in self-pity every-so-often – so getting engrossed in Art or pondering my career is something better to spend my time on. Oh and browsing Fuck Yeah Boston Terriers or The Daily Frenchie.

Sigh.
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Easter Freedom

It’s my first week of two weeks of freeeeedom from my workplace. Hoo-fucking-ray.

This week I went to see A Bigger Splash at Tate Modern before it closed; it’s always inspiring to be around so much art, no matter what sort it is (i.e. I liked some but not all of the work!). At the same time, the excitement I feel at art exposure is usually accompanied with a harder edge, as I am aware that making art is something I so rarely do. I get all stimulated but have no outlet. Haha.

I met up with Le Grande Homme Brum and La Rousse for another highly enjoyable dinner, and whilst talking to them about how much I was enjoying my pottery course, I was reminded that I need to try and make some headway on the “lack of art” problem. I need to make some space, both physically in terms of somewhere to work, and mentally too, in that instead of browsing crap on t’internet, I should spend my time outside of work more productively, as this will undoubtedly be A Good Thing.

The Parentals paid a visit on their way back from a wedding, and again I found myself pondering my career, what direction – if any – to take, and what things in life are important to me. I have no “five year plan”, and this is something that I think might be of benefit to be in possession of, as I feel like I spend a lot of time “existing” instead of “living” i.e. with no particular aims as to what I want to work towards. It’s that working towards something that seems to be lacking in my life at the moment, but whether this is just a need for hope that is wildly misplaced I am unsure.

Anyway, I now have a workspace THAT IS NOT TO BE USED FOR ANYTHING BUT ART (my rules) courtesy of Ikea, which is exciting if not slightly daunting because, actual effort is required. But a table is a start. And that is A Good Thing.
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