It’s nice to be reminded that, despite being a fully catalogued collection, the Minton Archive contains all sorts of surprises just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes we should know better – it’s not often that a trip into the Art & Design folios doesn’t leave us a little awestruck – but other times these surprises really do come out of left field…
One of our recent enquiries drew us into the work of Minton’s Art Pottery Studio, a relatively short-lived but important part of the company’s history. Built on the Gore estate in 1871, the Studio lay in close proximity to institutions which would help instruct, educate, and inspire its artists – the South Kensington Museum, the School of Art, the Horticultural Gardens, and the Royal Albert Hall – and who’s work would show that English pottery manufacturers could set design standards as well as follow them. In reality the Studio’s history was a rather turbulent one (culminating in it’s destruction in a fire in 1875) but it’s impact on the company was significant, not least because of the many talented artists who worked there or supplied designs to it – W.S. Coleman, Dr. Christopher Dresser, Henry Stacey Marks, and John Moyr Smith to name but a few.
This means we often find Kensington Studio stamps on the reverse of artwork in the Art & Design folios but there’s one particular item which we know exists – a pattern book specific to the Studio – who’s location has always been a bit of a mystery. That’s because there’s no express reference to an Art Pottery Studio pattern book in the catalogue and the collection’s main run of pattern books doesn’t contain such a volume either. Thankfully our enquiries often help us to work these issues out, in this instance by requiring us to search for any reference to “S” pattern numbers. Outside of the pattern book sequence we found this seemingly unremarkable record:
No class letter. No folio number. Book of drawings and sketches of items in the O and S ranges (bottles, vases, and some tiles and panels, etc); many coloured. 1 folio volume; quarter-bound leather; spine scuffed, otherwise condition good
and thought it might might be worth looking at.
It most definitely was.
By chance we’d stumbled across the Art Pottery Studio pattern book, a beautiful hand-drawn volume which perhaps needs a little more recognition than it’s current catalogue record title allows! Needless to say we’ll be updating that to more accurately reflect this particular item’s significance but in the meantime we thought we’d share some images of this remarkable volume below – we’ve already spotted some illustrated references to works by Dresser and Marks! Now, if only we were working on ways to allow you to browse selected volumes online… 😉