1950s TABLE WARE
With the ending of wartime austerity conditions, potters in the 1950s were free to indulge themselves in new shapes and colours for everyday wares.
During and after World War 2, there were severe restrictions in the British pottery industry. Undecorated white or cream 'Utility Ware' was all that was available to the public. The only decorated wares that could be made were for export. Any sold on the home market were seconds or export rejects. The lifting of these restrictions in August 1952 led to a flood of new designs in
tableware, as potters gleefully experimented with shape and colour.
In the vanguard of this experimentation was the Burslem firm of W R Midwinter. Roy Midwinter, the firm's head, visited the USA in 1952 and was greatly influenced by that country" more relaxed attitudes to dining and by their informal tablewares, some with a harlequin or mix-and-match attitude to colour.
British attitudes to eating were getting less formal, too. Convenience foods and takeaway meals other than fish and chips became available for the first time.
Another major influence on pottery designers was the 1951 Festival of Britain, intended to show off the achievements and industrial might of the Empire. One of the strong design themes that emerged from the Festival was the use of angular, spiky graphics, and these were incorporated into the shapes and patterns of ceramics.
THE STAMP OF APPROVAL
In 1956 the Design Centre was opened in London, with the aim of promoting designs showing 'good materials and workmanship, fitness tor purpose and pleasure in use'. Designers could submit their work, on payment of a fee, to a panel of judges who selected the best to bear the label 'Design Centre Approved'. This element of competition
helped the expansion of new ideas.
Technical innovations also had an effect. Johnson Matthey introduced a new method of producing transfers, known as serigraphy or screen printing, which allowed for the reproduction of thick, flat-colour designs, which were often layered.
This made it look as if the motifs had been printed over the design, not incorporated into it. Printing was sometimes deliberately 'off register', with the colour overlapping the outline of the design. The method also lent itself well to the duplication of the hand painted patterns favoured by many designers.
The dominant style of the 1950s was for simple shapes decorated with bold patterns or all-over colour glazes.
Tableware from the 1950s is still fairly underrated by collectors, though pieces by famous designers are sought after. Flea markets and jumble sales will often yield a rich harvest, and specialist dealers in shops and at antiques fairs are
well worth visiting. Large auction houses will not feature it, but lots can sometimes be found at local auctions.
Midwinter's Stylecraft range is perhaps most evocative of the period. It can be found in many different combinations of shape and pattern. A harlequin collection could be built up without too much expense. Look out, too, for Ridgway's Homemaker pattern, decorated with drawings of contemporary furnishings.
Carlton Ware is very collectable and can prove very expensive, though prices are more reasonable for items from the 1950s. The same goes or china by Susie Cooper, whose pieces are normally signed and marked with the name of the pattern on the base. Flower patterns such as Gardenia, Parrot Tulip and Wild Strawberry are perhaps less exciting than the almost abstract designs such as Black Fruit, Green Feather and Charcoal Skeleton Leaf. She also favoured delicate polka dot or star decorations on the outside of cups which had pastel
DOTS AND DASHES
Grimwades manufactured a breakfast set in Royal Winton which had red plates with a white polka dot. The same colour scheme in reverse was used for toast racks, cups and other hollow ware. Crown Staffordshire, by contrast, favoured fine lines running down at random to decorate their Queensberry range.
As with all china, items should be carefully checked for cracks and chips. Examine the handles of jugs and cups for damage. With teapots, pay special attention to the handles, spouts and the inner rim.
Tableware was expected to have a short life, and the new on-glaze transfers did not stand up so well to frequent use, so check for wear and rubbing. Knife marks often spoil the look of plates. If the tableware is of the mix-and-match or harlequin type, check the bases to see the various items really do match and that they are not a marriage of different sets.
Read articles and references: Good standards are Warman's
English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (Susan and Al Bagdade),
& Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William