Moorcroft Pottery – How it all began

William Moorcroft Design - Green and Gold FlorianWilliam Moorcroft was born in Burslem in 1872.  He was the second son of a family well established in the Potteries.
Young William enjoyed a conventionally happy family life until tragedy struck in 1881 when his mother died.  In 1884 his father married William’s nurse but sadly he only lived until 1885.
From the age of seven William attended Burslem Endowed School.  He appears to have been a good student and his early interest in art showed that he had inherited his father’s talents.  By the age of twelve he was already attending art and design classes at the Wedgwood Institute.
In 1895 William was studying at the National Art Training School, later the Royal College of Art.  He not only attended the usual lectures and classes but embarked on an intensive study of ancient and modern pottery and porcelain at the British Museum and South Kensington Museum and Paris.
By 1897 he had obtained his Art Master’s Certificate which would have enabled him to earn his living by teaching, but he had set his heart on a career as a potter.
And so his Career Begins
In 1897 William was offered a job as a designer by the china and earthenware manufacturers, James Macintyre & Co. at the Washington Works, Burslem.
He was ambitious, with firm ideas about design and decoration inspired by William Morris.  Unlike the majority of the art students trained in the government schools of art, he had also studied ceramic chemistry and had acquired experience of ceramic processes.
During his first nine months he introduced a new and original style of decoration for Macintyre’s printed and enamelled ware.
The new ware was given the name Aurelian and three of the designs were registered in February 1898.  Following this he turned his attention to ‘slipware’ .  Moorcroft was quick to appreciate the possibilities of slip trailing and explored its potential to develop a new range.  
In 1898 he was promoted to become Manager of the Ornamental Ware and was given his own workroom, a staff of decorators and the services of a thrower and turner.
He was asked to develop a new range of decorative ware, using the technique of slip trailing.  The result was Florian Ware.  
Moorcroft quickly developed his own design and working methods, and , having sole responsibility the training and supervision of his staff, and access to rhe firm’s laboratories, clayrooms, dipping house and commercial kilns he was able to control the design and manufacture of his ware from clay to kiln, and experiment freely with colour, glaze and decorating techniques.
Moorcroft drew the designs himself, adapting the patterns to fit every size and shape of pot.  Assistants then outlined the designs with fine extrusion of slip. This outline formed a cloisonnist pattern that created a relief effect.  At the same time it served to separate the colours.
The designs covered the surface, reflecting the influence of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and flowing naturally over the curves of the pot.  Grounds were usually pale with patterns often drawn either in complementary colours or in darker shades of the ground colour, for example blue on blue or green on green.
In the early 1900s Moorcroft began to replace the coloured grounds with white and cream and at the same time the designs became simpler but more colourful.  These changes were made possibly by better colour control during the firing, and by the availability of new colours developed by Moorcroft himself.
William Moorcroft enjoyed great freedom at the Washington Works, and indeed his work during this period established his own reputation rather than his employer’s.  He made full use of Macintyre’s London showrooms and was able to exhibit his work widely.  He was also able to establish good relationships with a number of retailers, at home and abroad.
Source:Moorcroft 1898 – 1993
               Author:  Paul Atterbury
               Pubslished by Richard Dennis & Hugh Edwards