Have your five-a-day

Are you concerned about getting your five-a-day? This vase will provide any fruit you need... When I first saw this sublime Minton vase I started shouting with excitement, as it is very rare to find a vase with so many rare properties that is in such pristine condition. Although this isn't usually my taste (you will have noticed that I haven't shown many "applied flower" items), it is done so incredibly well, and painted so wonderfully beautiful, that you just can't help but love it to death.⁠ It was made by Minton between 1830 and 1835. The shape is famous and was called the "scroll footed jar" - Minton had the strange habit of calling vases "jars". But what makes this one special is the fr

The secret message of grass

Who could ever guess that the peaceful "Grass" design of this very rare Belleek cabaret set carries a secret message from turbulent times? Belleek designs were all based on local Irish natural phenomena: the sea, shamrocks, grass, and the local river Erne full of trout and salmon. When Belleek started making porcelain, the first designers clearly made a choice not to go with the prevailing Victorian English fashion, but to make an Irish statement. Ireland had never had its very own world class factory; it was a great triumph for a colonised country that had been downtrodden as part of the British Empire and was still recovering from a devastating famine in the 1840s. Did you know that in one

To eat like a gentleman

To eat like a gentleman, or a lady! For many centuries, you were either born into a class that could afford scrumptious meals, or not. You could perhaps dream of better food, but you wouldn't dream of changing your position in society. In the 19th Century, all this changed with the Industrial Revolution. Suddenly anyone with a clear mind and a bit of starting capital or financial backing could build themselves a business and rise up in society. Social mobility was born with the "dark satanic mills" of 19th Century England, and it brought unprecedented wealth - and poverty alike. But for these new industrial leaders, suddenly not being poor anymore was, of course, only the beginning. You not

Doggie Love

On a cold and bleak winter's day, what's better than beating the blues with a dose of doggie love? Today I have a story about pugs - and yes it involves jumping on faces, fashion and a fair bit of history. The British potters of the 18th and 19th Century understood pet love, and they made wonderful little porcelain pets. These came of course as part of a huge collection of figures made in that era: shepherds, goats and sheep, figures representing the Seasons or various forms of morality... but the universally best loved ones are the pug dogs! Derby of course made pug dogs, and Worcester. But the best ones, I think, were made by the Yorkshire pottery of Rockingham. While the Derby and Worcest

Sea Glory

Happy New Year! We start the year with a rare piece of Irish sea glory: a gorgeous cabaret set made in parian china by Belleek in the 1860s. The tiny village of Belleek is in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, and the factory is literally on the border with the Irish Republic. The factory was built in the 1850s by a local land owner, his architect/designer friend and an investor from Dublin, in response to the devastating famine only a few decades earlier. Soon, the impoverished locals were able to flower in their previously undiscovered design and craft skills, making some of the world's best parian porcelain using the local Belleek clay. By 1863, Belleek made exquisitely designed teawar

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