The traditional Staffordshire china pot bank is a sight for sore eyes. Rare and getting rarer by the day. When in Stoke-on-Trent, you often hear the old Staffordshire term "Pot Bank" used to describe a pottery factory. The old ones are characterised by their pear shaped chimneys. On this page, we explore this old English heritage.
These pages have been designed for those who appreciate the art, skill and finesse required to produce decorative sculpture in ceramics.
The skills do not end with the sculptor - they begin!
An English pot bank is quite unlike any other factory I have ever witnessed. They are special places.
Very nice to look at to our modern eye - quirky, old, full of nostalgia for times past and, more to the point, mausoleums for lost skills.
Apart from the fact, although we mourn the lost arts, they still survive in beautiful pockets.
That's how I am still able to make my figurines in the traditional English way.
I am forever in awe at the precision needed from my colleagues who take one of my master sculptures and begin the complicated process of making a beautiful glistening jewel of a high quality bone china product...... collectible figurines.
The blockers, the casers, the artful painters are all part of the story.
The process of making figurines (and all other slip cast porducts) is done by a set of artists and artisans, each adding their own skills at each stage.
First is the designer or design team. At this point it has to be decided - 'What shall we sell? What do collectors want to buy?'
These ideas and suggestions are passed to the sculptor/modeller.
He produces a first rough. The designers have their say to modify and improve the design.
The modeller works to finish and finesse the final master sculpture. It must be very well refined as any mistake or tiny flaw will be reproduced hundreds of times in the finished production run.
Next the final sculpt is handed to the team known as the blockers - because they make the original block moulds. They take the sculpture, cut it into manageable parts and make a plaster of Paris mould of each part. This is a very skilful process and only a few can do it.
The 'casers' then make a cast of the original block moulds because the original plaster moulds wear out very quickly with handling and casting.
The casters are then free to assemble the series of moulds or 'parts' together and carefully pour in the liquid clay slip. This is left for up to an hour to absorb and harden inside the plaster casts.
The caster then carefully removes the mould parts to reveal an exact replica of the original sculpt. This is dried, decorated and fired once, then again each time another layer of decoration is applied.
Decorators are the final set of artists to apply their skills to a piece. This process is expensive and the profit margins are low, which is why there are so few factories left.
For those Staffordshire china pot banks that remain, let us all come together to thank the 'safe hands' and the tradition
they represent and revel in our skillful culture and rich traditional
Here are the most collected and sought after figurine collections the world has ever seen.
The Great English Names:-