Monday, 21 October 2013

The History of Portmeirion Pottery

Portmeirion village

Portmeirion – the company, not the village – is a British pottery company, based in the Staffordshire city of Stoke-on-Trent, part of the aptly named “Potteries Urban Area”.

The much-loved company has been going for more than fifty years now, and so, in celebration of this fact (and because we just really like the stuff), we have decided to write a little summary of their history. Read ‘em and learn, potters!

Portmeirion – The Early Days
The company was founded way back in 1960, the year of JFK, Elvis, and Hitchcock’s Psycho. Susan Williams-Ellis, the pottery designer and daughter of Portmeirion Village’s architect, and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis, took over A. E. Gray Ltd., a small firm specialising in the decoration of pottery.

Williams-Ellis had already been working with A. E. Gray for some time at this point, commissioning designs to be sold in Portmeirion’s (this time the village) gift shop. These designs all bore the stamp “Gray’s Pottery Portmeirionware”.

The next year, they purchased another company, Kirkhams Ltd., who had the capacity to manufacture as well as decorate. Combining the two businesses, Williams-Ellis and Cooper-Willis brought Portmeirion Potteries into the world.

Portmeirion – The Beginnings of Growth

Portmeirion pottery - TotemIn 1963, Susan put out “Totem” – a cylindrical piece, decorated with a bold and abstract pattern. This was to be the catalyst for Portmeirion’s success, putting them on the map at the front of popular design.

By the middle of the swinging ‘60s, Williams-Ellis had already picked up a reputation for putting out striking, memorable designs, creating the renowned and respected “Magic City” in 1966, and then the follow-up “Magic Garden” four years after that.

In 1972, Williams-Ellis was to create and launch the most famous and recognisable of all Portmeirion Pottery’s designs, one which is still made today in the same floral pattern – the Botanic Garden range. Arguably the most successful of these was the Portmeirion Botanic Blue pottery, which was to inspire even more success from the company over the following years.

Portmeirion – In Recent Years

Recently, more people have been offering up their own unique takes on the famous brand, such as interior designer and author Sophie Conran, giving us beautiful pieces like “Crazy Daisy”.

Portmeirion pottery - Crazy Daisy
Portmeirion Pottery has expanded in the last few years – following the fall into administration of both Spode and Royal Worcester in November 2008, Portmeirion Potteries Ltd. purchased both brands, on 23rd April, 2009.

This purchase did not include any of their manufacturing capabilities; it focused solely on the brand name and the designs. The manufacture of Portmeirion pottery continues to take place purely in Stoke-on-Trent, bringing Spode back into the UK from the Far East. Since the acquisition, the company name has been changed to Portmeirion Group.

This is a featured post from Portmeirion Pottery