William Moorcroft (1872-1945) was one of the great English potters of the early Twentieth Century. Fortuitously, he was born in Burslem, Staffordshire—"ground zero" of the British commercial ceramics industry. After studying in London and Paris, he returned to Burslem at the age of 24, where he was hired to work as a designer for the James MacIntyre & Company pottery factory. He set-about designing the company's "Aurelian Ware" line of decorative porcelain in 1897 and was promoted to chief designer for the entire art pottery division within a year.
The Aurelian Ware line was inspired by the Aesthetic Movement with an exotic Orientalist spin. Porcelain vessels were decorated with Asian-inspired transfer designs, a bit of hand-painted decoration, and applied gold embellishment. It was highly successful and quickly followed by a second new line called "Florian Ware."
Florian Ware began production around 1900 and utilized bold Art Nouveau decoration. It was entirely hand-painted, including the use of "tube lining"—which is the tracing of the outer borders of an image (say a flower petal) with a piping bag of thick glaze (creating a raised "border line" around the image). The interior "fields" would be filled-in with bright colored glazes, creating a boldly-graphic design sensibility. Moorcroft got a lot of attention for his designs. In fact he insisted on signing every piece—which only heightened the perceived value of the collectables. In 1904, at the Saint Louis International Exhibition (made famous with the film "Meet Me in Saint Louis"), Moorcroft (and James MacIntyre) won a gold medal for the Florian Ware line.
All of this attention paid to Moorcroft began to annoy his employers and, in 1912, MacIntyre "closed-down" Moorcroft's art pottery division (thus, firing him). Moorcroft's wife was part of the Lasenby family, owners of the important "Liberty of London" department store. Libertys invested in Moorcroft's new pottery studio, opened in 1913, and purchased much of his production to sell in their store (along with Tiffany & Company in New York). The Moorcroft line, now promoted under the potter's own name, became even more successful and is highly-collectable (and expensive) to this day.
The "Aurelian Ware" porcelain vase, shown above, is part of William Moorcroft's earliest commercial work. It captures the taste and spirit of the High Victorian period, with its Aesthetic Movement and Asian-Inspired design. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
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