Founded in 2011 by father and daughter duo Christopher and Emily Johnson, 1882 Ltd. are saviours of the British ceramics industry. Their entire collection is made using centuries-old traditions in Stoke on Trent, better known as one of the “Five Towns” that make up the Staffordshire Potteries – the traditional heartland of Britain’s fine China industry.
All this talk of heritage and traditional craftsmanship may evoke an “olde worlde” view of home accessories, however, 1882 Ltd. is anything but, collaborating with a handpicked crop of artists and designers whose work seeks to push the boundaries of what ceramics can do. We caught up with Emily, a fifth generation ceramicist, at her London studio to learn more about the unique processes and techniques that go into the 1882 Ltd. collection.
London-based Max Lamb is renowned for placing materials and traditional processes at the core of his designs. The visual simplicity of his work stimulates a dialogue between maker, product and user, reaffirming the role of craftsmanship in contemporary design.
His Crockery range is an expressive collection of fine bone china tableware. Blurring the line between designer and craftsman, Lamb uses the tools of a stonemason to carve each piece from solid blocks of plaster. To capture the raw textures and sculptural structures of Lamb’s designs, each piece is slip-cast by 1882 Ltd. from the designer’s hand carved plaster models. The interior is then glazed for functionality while the exterior is left unfinished for a textural contrast.
“Max was propelled by the process and removing the work of the modeller. This was great but required a different knowledge base from us in terms of ensuring that the models could be moulded for batch production. Then we had to look at finessing the pieces further ensuring that they were fettled back to where Max wanted them to be.
This meant talking things through with the potters directly to make sure everyone was on the same page. With the limited edition collection we discussed ways in which we could maximise the master mould to create two pieces instead of one. This was a conversation that could only have taken place after years of working together where trust and understanding had been established.”
Through her furniture and ceramics, British designer Faye Toogood demonstrates a passion for materiality and experimentation. Her highly sculptural work, while showing an astute respect for the past, is derived from pure self-expression and instinct.
The Indigo Rain range is Faye’s fresh spin on traditional English creamware and Delftware. Reinterpreting the homely familiarity of blue and white striped crockery, broad bands of indigo glaze wash over each piece like painterly watercolour brushstrokes. Made from fine earthenware, swathes of deep blue glaze are applied to rough canvas and then transferred to the ceramic imbuing each piece with the characteristic grain of the fabric. This process renders each plate, bowl and cup a unique one-off design.
“Faye and I had talked about doing a very different collection for nearly 12 months but then we had an epiphany about what we wanted to do and the rest came naturally. The collection has evolved easily from that point as the concept for it was so strong. Sometimes to start is the hardest thing and it can take three years to even get to that point.”
Fort Standard is a young contemporary Brooklyn-based design studio founded in 2011 by Industrial Designers Gregory Buntain and Ian Collings. The multi-faceted design of the Standard Ware range epitomises their combination of traditional materials and innovative processes. Crafted from fired earthenware, each piece is minimally glazed on both the interior and exterior to maintain focus on the striking angular profiles.
“One the great joys about ranges is that there is no one typical process! The only thing that is typical is that each designer comes to Stoke on Trent so that they can meet the team, see the process and get inspired. This was the case with Fort Standard whose process meant that they would pass the design back and forth from Ian to Greg and then back from Greg to Ian with sketches and models until they were happy with the outcome. This resulted in a design that is literally created out of its own making. We started with cups and then discussed the breadth of the collection we wanted and what items we needed – the finish alone was debated and discussed for months!”
A true testament to the craftsmanship of 1882 Ltd. the Slick range of tableware has been designed and developed by the studio’s in-house potters. Individually worked and hand glazed with a unique marble-like design, each mug and bowl are one-off designs.
“Slick is the best one of all as it was an accident! We did an exhibition a few years ago for LDF with Benchmark called Factory. We were launching four new collections and were also serving tea and food so needed bowls and teacups. We didn’t want to offend any of the designers so someone suggested we do our own collection, which we did and that is how Slick came about! It’s now one of our best selling collections.”
“Slick is decorated by one man while Indigo Storm is made by a team of 70. Crockery, on the other hand, is made by a team of 12. We always use the best people for the collection at hand. It can make life a little complicated but we believe it is important to get it down right.”
As regards Emily’s plan for the future, it’s a case of more of the same, please. Well, that is to say for 1882 Ltd. to continue preserving the traditional skills of the Potteries and by working with innovative design talent. “We must do everything in our power to keep the techniques and practises going. That means – great design, great industrial craft, great retailers and most important of all – customers who love and value our products. If we can achieve that I will be a happy woman!”