Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, is currently the home to the BBC’s Pottery Throw Down. Incidentally it is still a functioning ceramic factory producing slipware pieces for Poole Pottery and Denby.
The history of the building is fascinating and the methods and processes have changed little from the establishment of the factory in the Victorian era.
We have been a nation of slipware users for centuries. The products of slipware manufacture are commonplace on our dinner tables, bathrooms and mantelpieces. The saturation of slipware products in the market have significantly reduced its value in our ideology. Identical plates, toilets and ornaments are produced in their hundreds; the individuality and craftsmanship of this process appears nonexistent when compared pots, plates and vases handmade by the craftsman/artist.
But the reality could not be more different. The factory tour takes you on the journey of the object; from the making of the slip and plaster molds to packaging and shipping. Each piece is handled up to twenty-five times throughout its creation with employees specialising in different stages of its manufacture; as this video demonstrates.
What became more apparent as the journey continued was how skilled and masterful each person was at performing their role. A lady who was fettling twenty-four raw bottles told me she mostly works on that particular bottle; thus demonstrating the skill level required for each handling of the piece. And this continued throughout the factory, skilled craftspeople becoming masters in their own area.
All images and video (Sales, S. 2015)