Tile Trail Tales

The Potteries (Stoke-on-Trent, England) is built on craft and graft as a wise old man once told me1. The story of this proud City is a heroic tale of clay, coal and creative entrepreneurship that continues today. The visionaries and workmen behind the Trent and Mersey Canal opened up a voracious worldwide market place for the myriad of ceramic products made in Staffordshire.

To this day Potters (people from Stoke-on-Trent) still turn crockery over to look at ‘backstamps. Turn-er-over-ers are looking for the answers to two important questions: “Is it Staffordshire Pottery?” and  “which pottery made it?”. You will find ceramics made in The Potteries in almost every corner of the world. Contemporary crockery is used by hotels, restaurants and cruise ships across the globe to this day. You will find fine historic examples in international museum collections, historic buildings and public spaces. ‘In situ’ tiles and architectural ceramics are more difficult to turn over of course and therefore require a bit more research to unpack their fascinating stories.

Here is a taster of one of those stories recently published in ‘Glazed Expressions‘ (TACS – Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society). The article focusses on the Minton Tile Ceiling in Bethesda Arcade, Central Park, New York. The research benefited from a TACS’ grant in 2012. This support enabled the author to undertake a unique residency with Central Park Conservancy thanks to superb support from Matthew C. Reiley, Associate Director of Conservation and Preservation. Finally, this long term project has benefited hugely from the generous knowledge and support of David Malkin2 during the last five years.

 Please click here or on the image links below:

BethesdaArcade1   GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Minton(LondonRd,Stoke)   BethesdaArcade2

Photograph: Staffordshire Past-Track

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1Alex Birns – a brilliant studio ceramicist + adopted Potter RIP

2David Malkin was the last Managing Director of Malkin Tiles. He then became Head of Public Relations for H&R Johnsons, Stoke-on-Trent, England when they bought his family company in 1968. David was a major influence on H&R Johnsons’ decision to re-start encaustic tile production in Stoke-on-Trent – in response to a series of prestigious and high value commission opportunities including the United States Capitol Building, The Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC) and The State Capitol, Albany, New York.