Totally potty

The prime-time success of BBC’s Great Pottery Throw Down demonstrates our burgeoning national love affair with ceramics

It’s an exciting time for pottery lovers as the British passion for ceramics is experiencing a revival, reflected in the increasing following of the hit BBC show. While much of the talk is about Keith Brymer Jones’s love of a good throw down there is much to admire about the astonishing skill and success of our own native potters.

Much of this talent will be celebrated as a special exhibition arrives in Birmingham this month providing a fascinating insight into the rich, colourful and varied story of British ceramics from 1760 to 1930. Before 1754, when the Chelsea factory opened for business, porcelain in England was imported blue and white Chinese. When the English factories started up at that time, they copied the Chinese wares in shapes and patterns until they developed their own character.

To chart the period from 1760 to 1930 in ceramics is like holding up a mirror to the senses and sensibilities prevalent at the time of their manufacture. The porcelain plates, candlesticks and busts all afford an insight into the lives and world of the people who created, owned and used them.


The finest English porcelain ever made was produced at the Worcester Flight & Barr factory which was operated from 1783 to 1840 by two families, the Flights and the Barrs. Some pieces display astonishing feats of portraiture on porcelain.

While the Victorians were famous for being puritanical and straight-laced, they displayed a surprising appetite for nudes as demonstrated by the ‘Parian phenomenon’. Called Parian because they resembled the pristine white marble from the island of Paros, the figures were characterised by a smooth, silky finish, almost sensual to the touch.

Examples of all this work will be on display at the special exhibition presented by the English Ceramics Circle. Founded in 1927, the ECC specialises in the study of British ceramics. Between them, its members display an astonishing array of knowledge along with a relentless thirst to learn even more about their specialist subject.

Made in Britain is a special exhibition celebrating British ceramic highlights from the past 300 years at the Antiques for Everyone Spring Fair from 6 to 9 April at the NEC, Birmingham. More information: