Master Crafts: Review of World of Wedgwood
My 11-year-old daughter and I headed to World of Wedgwood for a creative mother-daughter day out, including a factory tour, designing plates, lunch, the museum and a browse in the beautifully displayed shop.
If you have a child who loves clay or painting pots and want to fire their interest look no further than a trip to The Potteries. Many of the key ceramic manufacturers in and around Stoke on Trent - acknowledged as the world capital of ceramics - provide educational and hands-on tours of their factories. We were invited to explore World of Wedgwood and found it brimming with Christmas spirit.
We started with a tour of the factory, which took me back to GCSE History lessons, investigating the impact of the industrial revolution. We discovered why Stoke On Trent became such a centre for pottery. Funnily enough, it wasn’t the abundance of clay, that actually comes from Devon and Cornwall, but the availability of coal to fire the clay.
Our guide explained how the intricate cups, plates and teapots are made, the process of casting uses slip, wet clay that sticks to the sides of each delicate mould. He explained Wedgwood’s move from factory to factory as Josiah’s ambitious business expanded and coal mining caused subsidence.
We saw carts of pottery waiting to go in the giant modern kilns, quite different from the bottle oven kilns I remember seeing pictures of, and even real examples of, when I visited my Grandparents’ house in Staffordshire. There were over 2000 of these brick, bottle-shaped kilns standing in the area, right up to the 1950s, and they made a dramatic skyline.
Knocker, Waggler, Diddling Stick. We loved the funny names for all the processes, in Staffs dialect, people say ‘How you diddling?’ for how are you or something is ‘diddy', small, so a diddling stick was a tapered sponge on a stick used for smoothing the clay around tricky edges. A Waggler is an instrument used to carefully tease the trademark Wedgwood fine clay relief decorations out of their intricate moulds.
Towards the end of the tour, we saw workers carefully applying lithographed designs to the plates. In the museum, we saw the books of plate edge designs that ladies would have poured over when choosing their crockery.
Then it was time to design our own lithograph to apply to a small Wedgwood plate, after seeing the Sultan of Oman’s £40,000 tea set for his private jet being finished, I was slightly intimidated by becoming a Wedgwood designer!
There was no need to worry, the design studio is a lovely, relaxed, creative zone, with staff on hand to give you ideas and inspiration. Our guide brought us books brimming with ideas, and the walls are covered in mood boards.
We were both immediately inspired by the work of Daisy Makeig-Jones who worked her way up from the factory floor and went on to be a much-respected designer at Wedgwood.
Her Fairyland Lustre range from 1916 inspires the stunning Christmas decorations this year, and both our plates, of which we are very proud - how many people can say they have designed a plate for Wedgwood? We decided to colour and adapt existing drawings, but you can work from scratch or add to existing designs.
World of Wedgwood would also be a lovely place to explore with Grandparents, we saw lots of three generational groups enjoying a day out together. You could book in for a luxury afternoon tea in the Tea Room, or simply enjoy soup, sandwiches, children’s meals and cake in the pretty dining hall. There are additional clay throwing experiences too.
Family tickets start at £15. You can mix and match different elements including the factory, tour, tea room and design studio. Decorating experiences start at £2.50, Wedgwood plate designs from £10, Pot throwing £10.
Have you ever been to World of Wedgwood? Let us know in a comment below, and don't forget to get some inspiration for how to do pottery painting with kids in Penny's recent blog, or find pottery centres and ceramic cafes near you now!