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Shelley Weekend & AGM - Telford - 8/10 April 2016

Collage 30th Weekend

How do they do it? Thirty years of the Shelley Group and still items get brought for the cabinets at the annual weekend which most people have never seen before. As boxes were unpacked and the displays set up, once more back at Telford, there was a real air of excitement as treasured purchases emerge from bubble wrap to be enviously ogled over the next two days.
Official events began with registration followed after dinner by a social gathering as members were divided into teams for a quiz evening. Olwen Dudgeon had devised a number of word, picture and general knowledge questions to frustrate and entertain and with the help of Elaine Whittaker had teams battling against each other for a couple of hours, with the team of Chatsworth the eventual winners.

Saturday morning started with registration for later arrivals and the staging of pot show entries, nine this year. After a welcome address from Chairman Gerry Pearce, particularly to our overseas visitors, the first presentation was on The Thirties. David Cox was due to give a joint talk with Kay Rush but due to illness could not make the weekend however she covered both their very different views.
David urged us to celebrate the age which proved to be a great period for the Shelley factory with exciting innovation and growth. New shapes included Vogue, Mode, Eve and Regent while it was also the time of Eric Slater’s accidental discovery of the dripware decoration which became Harmony.
Kay on the other hand took the novel approach of celebrating actual events of the 1930s by pretending Shelley used some special patterns, seconds, souvenir and commemorative ware to cover them. Did they miss out by not featuring the Jarrow March, the building of the Queen Mary, the growth of holiday camps like Butlin’s or the opening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford.
Instead of highly romanticised ladies on the Vogue/Mode shape she suggested Amy Johnson, Malcolm Campbell or the Mallard holding the world rail speed record might have been suitable topics. Far-fetched, well as Kay pointed out Paragon really did produce a plate celebrating the return from Munich of Neville Chamberlain.

Black & White Sheila Aves was next to the podium with Ebony and Ivory in Harmony, featuring Shelley’s black and white ware and of course in tribute to Paul McCartney’s lyrics she even had photographs of some items next to examples of Harmony on a piano.
She featured patterns ranging from Bute to Queen Anne, Kenneth to Eve and a few on Dainty. Apparently black and white prints are often referred to as funeral ware but it is not known if that was because the china was used at funerals. She also showed us a couple of fascinating Wileman pieces, two showing pictures of Evangeline a fictional character in a Longfellow poem and another of Princess Angeline, a real person descended from Seattle’s founder which she bought at last year’s US conference.
Other topics covered included examples of Parian ware busts, breweriana such as the Black and White whisky advertising and souvenir ware which left everybody wondering why anybody would want to buy pieces featuring the Illinois state penitentiary.

Carole Lockyer
Before lunch Carole Lockyer described the weekend’s In Situ on the Sons of Percy Shelley with colourful displays of Kenneth, Norman and Vincent, the most prolific of the three produced by Shelley. She took us through their schooldays, university or war years, marriages in the case of the twins to two close friends, and of course their work within the Shelley company.

The afternoon events began on a much reduced scale with Gems and Small China Vases with some gorgeous examples in the cabinets to illustrate the talk by Bruce and Anne Sandie. Most Wileman and Shelley collectors are familiar with the factory’s range of crested china miniatures made from 1903 into the 1920s but some were decorated which special patterns described in the pattern books as for “China Gems.”
That term Gems has now become widely used to describe any small wares with decorative patterns, including some miniature cup and saucers even though their decoration was not specifically listed for gems but were taken from tea ware patterns.  Designs on Gems include Blue on White windmills and Seascapes; Delphic Seascapes; Freehand Landscapes and Floral Patterns. Other patterns derived from tea ware and earthenware include golfing scenes, Surrey Scenery, hunting scenes and nursery rhymes. Some really fine examples of decoration can be seen on Gems.
Wileman produced a range of small china vases, jugs and pots starting in the mid 1890s and typically 70 to 125mm tall. Shapes numbers 1 to 17 can be identified with certainty because they are illustrated in the pattern books but the shapes 18 to 30 are less certain. Lots of useful information for us collectors.

And So To Bed, not an instruction to take a nap but the title of the next talk by Gerry Pearce covering the history of man’s need for light and the production of candlesticks by Wileman and Shelley. He said so far the earliest Wileman candlestick he has seen dated from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. Another early candlestick had its own snuffer while the large and elaborate Spano Lustra examples were produced up to 50 cms or 20 inches tall.
Gerry’s talk covered examples of Fola lamps, the range of Intarsio available, flat based candlesticks similar to an Archibald Knox design and even Harmony dripware. Some designs were produced in series such as Monks Fishing, Festival of Empire and Golfing scenes. He also pointed out that Shelley even made some in children’s patterns by Mabel Lucie Attwell and Hilda Cowham raising the question how dangerous was it for children to be going to bed with candles. Shelley produced a wide range of decorations on later candlesticks, some with and some without handles including some on the Dainty shape.

The final talk of the day was by David Deller on Heraldry and Universities covering both Oxford and Cambridge, both of which had their college Coat of Arms featured on a number of Shelley items. Not only did we see examples of the commemorative ware produced such as a Selwyn College preserve pot and an egg cup for Jesus College, Cambridge, but by the end we had picked up some heraldry terms such as sable and gules, black and red for those not in the know.

After a quick cup of tea it was back for the official business of the Annual General Meeting. As of the end of the financial year, which for the group is October, finances were adequate with 236 members. The financial records were adopted and it was decided not to increase the subscription in view of the position. Gerry said the group still needed an Events Officer and asked for anyone willing to come forward and said Shirley Deller would be stepping down as membership secretary soon.
Student Alex Allday has now finished her degree and the group has given its next grant to another ceramic student Rachel Hoyle. The chairman said the best news of the year is that the Shelley Pattern books are now at the archive in Stoke and thousands of pictures of pages have been taken to build a record for the Group, Chris Davenport had examples on his laptop, which will be of huge help to those doing research and talks. Plans are also being made for nominated archivists of the two other groups abroad to also have access.
Gerry said Les Foley had stood down as web master after eight years and he thanked him for all his hard work with a small presentation. The good news is that another member from the North East, Brian Hill has stepped in to take his place. He also thanked Ray Reynolds for decorating a vase to be auctioned, Enid Foley for making another excellent cake for the group, David Deller for his work on the handouts for the weekend and all the speakers. Sheila Aves proposed a vote of thanks to Gerry for all his work for the group.

When the formalities finished members went to vote on the pot show entries before a quick change ready for the silent auction, which raised £113 for the group and the Gala Dinner where we enjoyed some excellent food and service at specially decorated tables. Two events took place before the speakers, the raffle for Enid’s cake was won by Linda Ellis raising £200 for group funds and the auction of a rare Urbato vase donated to the group which brought a further £600 for group funds.

Harvey Pettit and William Semft Then it was the guest speakers William Harvey Pettit and Robert Senft. Chris Watkins the third author of the Shelley Potteries book could not be present due to ill health but had sent his response to some previously submitted questions. Their book on The History and Production of a Staffordshire Family of Potters first printed in 1980 is still a crucial font of wisdom for all Wileman and Shelley collectors and it was fascinating to hear how their various interests worked together in its production.
Robert Senft knew Harvey who was a dealer in Art Deco pottery and heard about Chris from the Shelley family, who by chance had contacted them a year earlier. It turned out each had already done some research into the firm. Chris took on the start of the Shelley Potteries, early days, family history and registered designs, Robert the thirties period, pattern books, pottery production and Donald Shelley’s top Hat Kiln while Harvey looked at the Post War years. Most of the photographs used were of pieces they owned. Robert said he became good friends with Donald and Val Shelley and they introduced him to Eric Slater who he described as “a charming gentleman.”
The book had just been published when they opened the first exhibition at the Geffrye Museum which was partially funded by them on condition it was a travelling exhibition, so the following year it went to Stoke, Bristol and Edinburgh. They described the difficulties of setting up and physically moving everything around the country ranging from having to get display blocks made to doing publicity interviews on Pebble Mill. Of the 161 items in the exhibition 80 per cent belonged to them, Robert transported most of the pottery in his Volvo estate while the other two took all the display stands and 2D items. They had some amusing stories to tell about what went on behind the scenes of both the book and exhibitions.

Steve Palmer Sunday events began aptly with Dawn Chorus a very entertaining talk on Shelley Birds by Steve Palmer complete with bird watching outfit and binoculars. He said when he began his research he was staggered how many patterns featured birds in Wileman let alone Shelley. He mentioned swan and hen jelly moulds, six birds in crested miniatures and grotesques but focused mainly on the bird figures which included not only British but some exotic species.
The Shelley bird models were made in two sizes, large being 10-22 centimetres tall and the small 5-7 cms. Both large and small had pre-war and post war ranges. The large pre-war series had 11 birds including parrots, jay, woodpecker and kingfisher as well as number 8 Toucan. The large post war series had 10 birds. The pre Second World Ward small range had 12 birds, the post war, six including an Eastern Bluebird number 27. Steve pointed out that Shelley took liberties with designs often using the same moulds for several birds just changing the colourways and numbers. There are also three eagles, lustre, black and the rare red flamboyant which do not appear to be part of the bird series.

The theme for the Shelley snake this year was the letter S and an amazing range of items had been brought for John Barter to describe including a shaving mug, a rare Shelley spoon, Surrey scenery, a sardine box, a sugar box, patterns featuring swans, snowdrops, soldiers, the Skua plane, spurge, Sunray, storks, Shakespeare and Syringa.
Pot Show WinnerWinner of the pot show was Jill Burridge and her “It’s a Mug’s Game” with Terri Mongor’s  “Swan Lake” second and Steve Palmer’s “The Longest Reign” third. After presentation of the trophy the final talk was by Peter Porazzo on North American Souvenir Ware. The variety of wares produced for the market in the United States was really quite extraordinary. Souvenir pieces, most with black lithographs were not only produced for special events but for virtually any place a buyer was willing to pay for, ranging from shops to churches, schools to railway stations.
Presidents Washington and Lincoln featured on ware produced by Wileman, while Shelley later produced some featuring Roosevelt. At least as many if not more souvenir ware was ordered for the Canadian market. As Peter said it is not only a fascinating topic for the Wileman/Shelley collector but for anyone interested in history on who or what is depicted and who commissioned them.
Raffle Prize donated by Ray Reynolds
After Sunday lunch members enjoyed a Bring and Buy Sale with all sorts of items on offer and a piece of the 30th Birthday Cake made for the group by Enid, who celebrated with Les winning the raffle for the wonderful vase decorated by Ray Reynolds. Then it was time to pack up and dismantle the cabinets at the end of another fine gathering.