George Owen, the master modeller

This week I am showing two very special pieces of antique porcelain: a sublimely made candy box with cover and a little vase, created by George Owen at Royal Worcester in the year 1909.

George Owen was one of the greatest artists at Royal Worcester. He was a modeller with a truly unique skill of reticulating (piercing) extremely fine decorative pieces. While there were other modellers with this skill, no one was able to work to Owen's standard and his pieces stand out in perfection, detail and beauty.

Owen knew the value of his talent; he always worked behind locked doors and never allowed anyone to see how he created his pieces. He would even put away his tools when disturbed lest anyone would discover his method.

One thing that made Owen unrivalled at his skill was the fact that he was ambidextrous, i.e. he could work right-handed as well as left-handed with the same precision, allowing him to change hands depending on which side of a piece he was working on and applying equal pressure either way. Owen had his pieces cast especially thinly by his son, but even his son was not allowed to watch him work!

Owen's pieces were very expensive to make; the slightest lapse of concentration could lead to the knife slipping or the item drying out too much, which would ruin it. Each piece would take many months to create, often with intermittent periods of being slowly brought to the correct degree of humidity in a "wet box". Then during firing in the kiln anything could go wrong and it was never certain whether these very fragile pieces would come out cracked. In this box you can see the impossibly thing honeycomb piercing all the way through.