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Midwinter Pottery - Fashion on a plate.Author: Sue Lewis of Moonraker Antiques
Little did I imagine as a child growing up in the sixties, that one day the very plates I was eating off would be so desirable to collectors. To me, Midwinter tableware was simply part of the comforting fabric of everyday life. In the Seventies in was a source of derision. My teenage ego smug in the knowledge that I had infinitely superior taste to that of my Mother with her choice of orange and brown tableware from "Boots". Well if Mum had known how I felt while eating my tea, she would certainly be entitled to a little smile of satisfaction when viewing the contents of my Dresser today.
The Midwinter Pottery was founded at Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in 1910, but the much sought after "Stylecraft and "Fashion" ranges were not launched until the 1950's.
The new range was aimed at the younger generation, who after the years of rationing which followed the war were keen to embrace the new and modern. Streamlined, and with a small rim, it was designed for ease of cleaning and storage. The plates shaped like the Television screens of the period, stacked easily, a important consideration in the smaller homes of the 1950's.
For the new shape, new designs were developed. The Festival of Britain in 1951, inspiring Midwinters designers such as the legendary Jessie Tate, with Microscope patterns, and fluid shapes.
Despite the Stylecraft range being well received, Roy Midwinter felt that success would not be complete until the old fashioned rim, originally retained as a concession to the English habit of placing a small pile of salt there, had been removed.
Sure enough in January 1954 the new rimless "quartic plate" was illustrated in "The Pottery Gazette". Inspired by the "Organic Modernism" of the Designers of West Coast of America , the Fashion shape had arrived. At first 6 patterns were launched in the new shape, among them a black and white series called "Nature Study" by Terence Conran of Habitat fame, and "Pierrot" by Jessie Tate. The classic "Zambessi" did not arrive until a little later in 1956. The Fashion shape proved a great success and new designs continued to emerge for it throughout the 1950's.
But time moves on, and by the late 1950's the Fashion shape had begun to look dated. Roy Midwinter was now looking to design a distinctly British range. So in 1962, in collaboration with the Marquis of Queensberry, the "Fine" shape was launched. The new shape was a move away from the organic to a cylindrical form. The straight sides allowing larger areas for decoration. Designers now using the high fashion colours of the 1970's for their patterns - orange, yellow, lime green and strong blue predominating.
New shapes appeared regularly throughout the 1960's, but by the late sixties the company suffered a number of set backs in the relative failure of the MQ2 and Portobello shapes. Financial problems then saw the factory acquired first by A & G Meakin and again two years later in 1970 by Wedgwood. The Midwinter name however continued, and its fortunes improved with the production of the casual "Stonehenge" shape in 1972. Once again in tune with the times the speckly Creation glaze developed by Eve Midwinter, and the "Sun" "Moon" and "Earth" patterns proved popular with collectors. On a nostalgic note Jessie Tate left the Midwinter factory in 1974 and Nasturtium for the Stonehenge range was the last pattern she designed for Midwinter.
The Midwinter Factory was a true style leader of the 1950's and 1960's and deserve the following they now enjoy. But when did I experience a change of heart? A couple of years ago I inherited a teaset of my Grandmothers. A variant of Red Domino in the Fashion shape - and I loved it. The teaset however was without a teapot, so I set about trying to find one. I can't tell you how surprised I was to discover that the company that had made my Grandmothers teaset and Mum's tableware were one in the same. I wasn't successful in finding a teapot but by the time I had finished my research into the company who had made it, Midwinter had a new devotee.
So it is with pride I now display my Midwinter Tableware. A tribute to true innovators of fashion and style - Midwinter Potteries, and my Mum.