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Recent Events - contd.

2015 Shelley Weekend & AGM. - Weekend Report.

Annual Weekend 2015 Collage

Left a bit, right a bit, maybe towards the middle.” No not politics nor a replay of an old edition of The Golden Shot, but the advice that flows from enthusiasts as cabinets are set up for another Shelley Group weekend. That advice is interspersed with “oohs” and “aahs” as treasured and unusual items are unpacked from bubble wrap and boxes for displays illustrating various talks.
This time members had travelled to the Staverton Park Hotel at Daventry for the gathering and after checking in those with display items start to set up before registration and catching up on everyone’s news at dinner.
That was followed by another brain storming social evening hosted by Gladys and John Smith where members are divided into teams to answer various quizzes. This year they ranged from car badges to cup shapes, from anatomy to the true first name of Al Pacino. Gladys and John have decided to step down from organising the social and they will be a hard act to follow their hard work having kept us entertained on the Friday evening for several years.

Saturday began with breakfast, a noisy affair with Shelley members vying to be heard over lots of other guests enjoying their own weekend. Then the Pot show entries are staged, ten this year, before our chairman Gerry Pearce officially welcomed everybody.

The first talk was Blue and White at the Shelley Potteries with John Barter outlining the growth in popularity following the early import of Chinese ceramics. The need for British-made blue and white table wear increased greatly after 1791 when trade from China was limited and companies from Sadler and Green to Wedgwood and Josiah Spode began to turn out their own wares. Evidence of blue and white transfer printed wares from the Foley works factory exists from the 1820s and John featured examples including a large Etruscan water jug from Elkin, Knight and Bridgwood, a bowl in the Cochin pattern with the JFW backstamp for James Wileman and a magnificent Asiatic pheasant pattern on a serving plate. He also took us through blue patterns such as Dolly Varden on Alexandra, Bramble or sunflower on Lily and later examples such as Willow on Bute and Osterley Park on Carlisle with a few Surrey Scenery and Blue Dragon thrown in on the way. Lots of information and a spectacular display to back it up.

Next on was Eileen Gore with Unusual Faience who posed the question Why did Wileman use it in such a vast array of styles. She noted that so far she and Carl had not found any Shelley back-stamped pieces carrying the word Faience. She said they believe the pieces with a heavy treacle glaze allowing the colours to drip embody the Faience tradition but other series include pieces with Yorkshire rhymes and Scottish phrases as well as toilet ware. As to why she concluded in a Eureka moment the creative marketing team decided to put Faience on the bottom “of as many things as possible” believing the Edwardians would buy such fine items. Business is business as they say.

The morning session ended with Shirley Deller’s amusing take on The Shelley Collector, an In Situ based on the 12 days of Christmas but beginning with the first day of collecting. There were some obvious examples of Intarsio geese and swans but others included jelly moulds, serving dishes and Hilda Cowham drummers. Among the most popular were five Gold Regent Cup rings and instead of maids it was eight jugs for milk in!

After lunch Peter Porazzo took us on a trip over the Atlantic with the Pilgrims telling the fascinating story of Wileman’s wares to commemorate the American Pilgrims under pattern number 7934. Excellent research had traced the original paintings used for the images such as The Mayflower, Pilgrim Exiles, The Old Fort and First Meeting House and he described the hardship facing those early pioneers. But equally fascinating was the way Wileman used the very same images with different captions for the Canadian market. What were we saying about good business.

The afternoon then moved on to a more risqué theme as Kay Rush took as into the Jazz Age. Who present will ever forget that clip of Josephine Baker’s banana dance as the 20s burst into life which for Shelley meant vibrant and colourful new abstract patterns such as Balloons and Flashes and Palm Trees.
New design ideas were not unique to Shelley with other companies producing their own ranges but Shelley certainly kept up with the demand for new fun and frivolity demanded after the hardship of World War One. However, Kay also reminded us that the glamour of that time was also a period of poverty and hardship for many of the workers in the Potteries.

After Chris Davenport and Bruce Till dressed up to serve us cocktails 1920 style, tea was followed by the formal business of the AGM. Gerry Pearce said it was good news that the Shelley pattern books, part of the Minton archive had now been saved following a campaign led by the Art Fund. The Archive will now be owned, managed and made publicly accessible by Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council Joint Archives Service who loan objects to the Wedgwood Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for display and exhibition. Members said they hoped it would mean once again the Group would have access possibly in some way for next year’s 30th celebrations. Telford was approved as a fall-back venue for the future. Gerry also said the Group had made its second bursary award to a student of ceramics. Officers were re-elected and there was a discussion on how to attract new and younger members. One suggestion was for anyone selling Shelley/Wileman on Ebay to include a group membership leaflet when they post their item out. Membership dues were kept at the same level and there were two special presentations during the meeting to Gladys and John Smith for all their work on the quizzes and to the retiring events officer Barbara Jackson.
A special thank you also went to Enid Foley for all her magnificent cakes and to Les for his photographic work on the talks.

There was just time for voting on the Pot show before getting ready for the Silent Auction and Gala Dinner. These were held in a separate building, the leisure club, which involved some members being transported with their precious china on golf buggies, but for the first time both events were in the same room which seemed to work well. Once again a surprising range of items was on offer with several changing hands.

The after dinner speaker was member David Cox who told hair-raising tales about his life as a head-master in Lincoln and the calming effect on his nerves of the Shelley collection he kept in his room to make him forget the stresses of the day. Another enjoyable evening among friends. The raffle for one of Enid Foley’s splendid cakes was won by an excited Olwen Dudgeon which was apt since the Midnight pattern featured on it came from a small vase illustrated in Olwen’s Sunday talk. Both assured the dinner guests the raffle was not fixed and it raised £200 for group funds.

Sunday began with the much awaited results in the pot show. A delighted Steve Palmer won with his interpretation Strike a Light, It’s a Hole in One, Drinks All round and managed to pick up second as well with Are you Deaf, I did not say Canterbury Tails by Saucer. Third place went to Olwen Dudgeon for The Green Party.

The first talk of the day was by Elaine Whittaker titled Where Shall We Go for Tea. She began with nostalgic references to the old tea shops like Lyons and took us through some of the more modern Shelley tea ware with their matching tea pots such as Oleander and other shapes named after towns and cities such as Henley, Ludlow, Bristol and Richmond. She also described the areas using scenic pictures encouraging us to visit them with several of the tea ware examples featured in the cabinet.

A is for apple, armadillo, Avon, ashtrays, aircraft, anglers and anemones to name but a few of the patterns and shapes which lined up next on the Shelley snake. The variety of items featured was testament to the imagination of all those collectors in the group and it is a brilliant way of displaying an eclectic mix of pieces with some interesting background stories.

After a video presentation showing the work of Alex Allday, the recipient of the Shelley Group Bursary, it was time for the last talk by Olwen Dudgeon on The Sky at Night. This was mainly about the Shelley lamp bases with shape names such as Orion, Virgo, Saturn and Mercury but also included references to the Moonlight and Midnight series of vases. Of course there was also the odd detour throughout the night to spot Intarsio bats and owls, the occasional witch, and Pole star pattern teaware.
She explained that Shelley frequently did not mark the base with numbers which means more research is needed to track down names for some of the unidentified lamp base shapes.

Lunch was followed by a busy 'bring and buy' which raised £72.40 for group funds and the drawing of the raffle for a plate decorated by Ray Reynolds which raised £215 and was won by John Smith. After a slice from another of Enid’s delicious fruit cakes it was time to start packing up and dismantling all those displays.

If you have not been to one of the group weekend’s you are really missing out not just on some wonderful Shelley and Wileman but a great social event among other equally mad collectors. Planning for next year’s weekend is well in hand. See you there!