Spode / Copeland Spode
Josiah Spode I established his pottery firm around 1770 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. In 1778 his son (Josiah Spode II) opened premises in London for the trading of pottery. Josiah Spode I focused his attention on the manufacture of porcelain, a technically more difficult but much finer material than the earthenware he had previously produced. Efforts to copy imported porcelain from China had had limited success - with potters making a soft-paste porcelain that was difficult to use and suffered from slumping in the kiln at raised temperatures. The first soft-paste in England was demonstrated by Thomas Briand in 1742 and is believed to have been based on a formula used in France. In 1749, Thomas Frye (a portrait painter) took out a patent on a porcelain containing bone ash. This was the first bone china, subsequently perfected by Josiah Spode II in 1799.
Bone china had a higher level of whiteness and translucency as well as higher mechanical strength and resistance to chips. Spode's china bodies, first Bone China and, from 1822, its derivative Felspar Porcelain, outclassed all other contemporary English porcelains - not just in terms of strength and beauty but also of reliability of manufacture. Spode’s Felspar Porcelain is recognised as the forerunner of all modern English Bone China. In 1805 William Copeland became a partner, and sole administrator in 1812. The firm remained in the Copeland family until 1966 - subsequently closing in 2009 following several changes of ownership.
Josiah Spode I (1733-1797)
Spode earthenware plate c1815. Transfer printed in underglaze blue.
Josiah Spode I is also recognised as having developed the technique for underglaze transfer printing on earthenware c.1784 and to have produced the first printed “Willow” patterns 1784-90s. These pieces were in great demand as substitute for Chinese porcelain which was becoming increasingly harder to obtain. As the technique for transfer printing was perfected together with their development of bone-china, Spode's blue and white transfer printed wares were generally considered to be among the finest made.
Imari porcelains from Japan, characterised by the predominant use of a cobalt blue, iron red and gold palette became increasingly popular in England during the 18th century. Known as Japans in the 1750s and 1760s they were copied extensively by English porcelain companies. Spode was amongst the first to produce them; the first recorded pattern dates to c1805.
Imari patterns dominated the Spode pattern range from this date until around 1815. Interest only faded after the Derby factory flooded the market c1820. Spode's Imari ware was of a very high standard, skilfully painted and gilded on a high quality bone china body. The wonderful lustre imparted by candlelight to the rich mercury gilding has inspired the name 'Candlelight Patterns'.