Wednesday, 22 May 2013

PORTMEIRION POTTERY

Botanic Garden

Introduced in 1972, you could be forgiven for thinking that Botanic Garden was the only design Portmeirion produced such was it's popularity for at least two decades. It was charming. Delicate illustrations of garden delights in feminine hues with Moths and Butterflies recalled the then highly sought after Victorian and Edwardian botanic drawings. The shape of the china was beautiful too.


But this well known design is only one of the many wonderful collections produced by Portmeirion.

My favourite era for the pottery is the 1960s when founder Susan William-Ellis had just begun to design shapes.  Everything about her early designs scream 60s from the astonishing shapes, colours and magical glazes.  I love the raised patterns she borrowed from native American Indians on Totem, hence the name she gave it.


Totem coffee set

Totem was produced in amber, olive green, dark blue and white. The white items are hard to find today and considered rather rare. They produced coffee and tea sets, dishes, bowls and cheese and serving dishes.

The coffee set was iconic but proved not all that practical with it's tall pot and thin handle and spout. Many were broken, but the glaze held up and although examples may now be crazed it is usually superficial. They are such beautiful designs that even to have them to look at is a joy.


Coffee cup in the dark blue glaze

Totem tea pot and cup
From here:
Totem plate, canister and tureen.

They say copying is the greatest form of flattery and copied it was. This is my own teapot, a Scandia design. I love it, it's short strong silhouette, glaze and raised decoration recall Totem, but I do long for the real thing which is so much more refined. 


My teapot
Another look-alike, this one is by Lord Nelson Pottery.
It is nice .... but still not quite Totem.

Portmeirion Village, where it all began.

For those who do not know, Portmeirion Pottery was founded in 1960 when pottery designer Susan Williams-Ellis (daughter of Clough Williams-Ellis the creator of Portmeirion the fantastic fantasy holiday village where The Prisoner was filmed) and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis took over A.E. Gray Ltd,  a small pottery decorating company in Stoke on Trent.

Susan had been commissioning her designs with A.E. Gray in order to produce items to sell in the gift shop at Portmeirion Village.  In 1961 Susan and Euan expanded when they bought Kirkhams Ltd, another small pottery. This which allowed them to manufacture pottery, and not just decorate it. Having previously only designed surface pattern she now began to design her iconic shapes as well.
These two businesses were combined and Portmeirion Potteries was born.

Susan Williams-Ellis' early Portmeirion designs include Malachite (1960) and Moss Agate (1961). In 1963 Susan launched Totem. Totem's bold, tactile and abstract pattern coupled with its striking cylindrical shape propelled Portmeirion to the forefront of fashionable design. they stayed there for many years to follow.

In the latter half of the 60s she remained right on target with her visions. In the era of hippies, pschedelia pattern and colours fuelled by the trippy drug culture her designs had a fairytale air about them.

Magic City

The original design was sketched while at the 'Monte Sol' hotel in Ibiza,
the 'Marrakesh' colourway with its striking lime green colourway appeared a few years later, 1960's.
From Flicker Here:

Susan died in 2007 but her great talent lives on in much coveted pieces she designed which are still being copied even today. 


Further reading:

Portmeirion Own site

Retro Wow site

20 comments:

  1. I love Greek Key and Arabesque! A few years ago we passed up a Magic City coffee set going for £12 in a charity shop to my eternal regret! xxx

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  2. I love that these may be impractical but who cares, they're utterly sublime to look at in detail! Beautiful and your teapot is lovely! Take care
    x

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  3. Vix - I love Greek Key and Arabesque too, perhaps a post for the future, especially if you do not pass up that next treasure you find! (£12.00!)

    Kitty - Yes, I love Totem just for it's looks, it does not have to do another thing.
    ; ~ )

    Minerva x

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  4. Teapots and pitchers are my weakness. Something about the profile. I love these!

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  5. Many years ago we lived near their factory in Stoke and used to buy seconds, we got a whole beautiful black and gold coffee service that way. Unfortunately our little daughter was never happy unless crashing about and it all got smashed, together with antique minton etc. etc. Grrrr.... someone suggested we collected flat irons while she was young. Anyway your post was a nice trip down memory lane!
    I didn't realise you were in the Hungerford Emporium. wow - small world!

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  6. Thanks for the memories of Susan Williams-Ellis's unique designs which typified and encompassed the 60s so well. I suspect that Portmeirion is rather a quirky and quaint place to visit now as so many people have now visited the real thing in Italy where much of Clough Ellis's inspiration came from. However, I remember my visit as a child on holiday with my parents, and I thought that it was magical.

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  7. I'm Adoring the Marrakesh Set! And the History behind this Pottery... Thanks for Sharing... and for stopping by for a Blog Visit. I can totally relate, I too have been MIA from visiting other Blogs lately and its nice to catch up with everyone's Posts now.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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  8. Lovely tea/coffee pots and cups, it's beautiful.

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  9. That Marrakesh set is my favourite. I enjoyed reading about Portmeiron pottery. I came upon it several times when searching for vintage cups and plates, but never knew much about the pottery itself.

    Happy weekend!

    Madelief x

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  10. Love the Totem pottery for show.

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  11. Dear Minerva,
    looking at the photos with the brown and green tea (or coffee) sets reminded me, that a) fashion is even present in china ware (of course, it is design) - and b) for the first time in decades I remembered the brown-glazed cups etc we had.
    The only thing from this era we kept is a fine Rosenthal esspresso-set in a deep dark magenta-burgund-or pink? - we still use it, it is lovely.

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  12. Hi Minerva,
    The totem pottery set is great and I for one would love to have a set!
    What a fantastic design and pattern from the 60's. The coffee cups are a good shape too.
    You are very lucky to own a teapot. Next time I visit you may we have a pot of tea?
    Lovely to stop by and see your pottery post.
    Jo. x

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  13. When we were first married we lived near the factory in Stoke and used to buy seconds from the factory shop. We were poor but we could afford that. We had a wonderful collection but our first child was always incredibly destructive, without meaning to be at all. Once a friend suggested we collected flat irons instead of china, just while she was growing up. It wasn't really funny - she'd just smashed a Victorian Minton jardiniere. In those days the local auction house used to sell job lots of amazing stuff for very little money.

    That daughter still breaks things :)

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  14. I have 6 tea cups and saucers, 5 breakfast cups and saucers, 2 tureens and lids, 1 small creamer jug, 1 large milk jug, all in perfect order. With small single chips 1 large meat plate. 1 large gravy boat. I wish to sell these as I have no room to keep them and they are to good to use as common crockery. Can you please tell me if there is anywhere you know who buys this. Zarndra Benson zarndra@victor-deco.co.uk

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for very late reply, I hope you found a buyer!

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  15. I have a coffee set in Blue Garland ... Tall pot, cream jug, sugar bowl, 6 tall cups, black saucers, black lid on pot,
    This seems to be a very very rare pattern? Do you know how I can value it for the household insurance? Please

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    1. Hi, I would suggest that you find a local auctioneer to you, most of them have a free valuation day where you can take items along. I do not know the patten you speak of, but sounds nice! Good luck.

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  16. I married my Iraqi husband in 1968 & went to live in Baghdad for the next 31 years! On my trips back to the UK over the years I collected the dinner service, the tea service & the coffe pot & mugs. Guess which patten, yes it is "Magic City!!When I left in a hurry before the next Gulf War, the china stayed in Baghdad. Now 16 years later all the china has been shipped out me (Jan 2016). Some of the pieces sadly got broken, but I see there is a good variety of china on ebay!My daughter likes it, so I have given it all to her. I had great pleasure using it & it was frequently admired, as you can imagine it was the only English china with mosques as the design!

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  17. I married my Iraqi husband in 1968 & went to live in Baghdad for the next 31 years! On my trips back to the UK over the years I collected the dinner service, the tea service & the coffe pot & mugs. Guess which patten, yes it is "Magic City!!When I left in a hurry before the next Gulf War, the china stayed in Baghdad. Now 16 years later all the china has been shipped out me (Jan 2016). Some of the pieces sadly got broken, but I see there is a good variety of china on ebay!My daughter likes it, so I have given it all to her. I had great pleasure using it & it was frequently admired, as you can imagine it was the only English china with mosques as the design!

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  18. I have recently acquired a full 15 piece "Magic City" coffee set that unfortunately as beautiful as it is, I cannot keep! This is especially gutting as I have actually fallen in love with the wonderful ceramics of this era, especially the Portmerion pieces! However, if anybody would be interested, I have had the set valued at £175 but I would much rather it go to somebody who would cherish it then to sell online to just anybody, so I thought I'd see if anybody would be willing to give me an offer here!

    Please get in touch of interested: rorysdeegan@outlook.con

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