Josiah Wedgwood

josiah-wedgwoodJosiah Wedgwood, (born July 12, 1730, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, wedgwood-potteryEng.– passed away Jan. 3, 1795, Etruria, Staffordshire, English ceramic designer and producer, superior in his clinical technique to pottery making and known for his extensive researches into products, rational deployment of labor, and sense of company. A famous abolitionist, Wedgwood is born in mind for his “Am I Not a Man And a Brother?” anti-slavery medallion but he never took up politics to become a member of the Houses of Parliament. He was a member of the Darwin– Wedgwood family. He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin and Emma Darwin.

The youngest child of the potter Thomas Wedgwood, Josiah came from a family whose members had been potters considering that the 17th century. After his dad’s death in 1739, he worked in the family company at Churchyard Works, Burslem (Stoke on Trent), becoming remarkably skilled at the potter’s wheel and, in 1744, an apprentice to his senior brother Thomas. Wedgwood married Sarah Wedgwood (1734–1815), his third cousin, in January 1764. The family were very happy with this marriage and they had several wedding entertainers. They had seven children. An attack of smallpox seriously reduced his work; the disease later on impacted his right leg, which was then cut off. The consequent inactivity, nevertheless, enabled him to read, research, and experiment in his craft. After Thomas declined his proposition for partnership about 1749, Josiah, after a short partnership (1752– 53) with John Harrison at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, took part 1754 with Thomas Whieldon of Fenton Low, Staffordshire, probably the leading potter of his day. This became a productive partnership, making it possible for Wedgwood to become a master of existing pottery techniques. He then started what he called his “experiment book,” an indispensable source on Staffordshire ceramic.

After designing the improved green glaze still preferred today, Wedgwood ended his partnership with Whieldon and went into business for himself at Burslem, first at the Ivy House manufacturing plant, where he improved cream-coloured earthenware that, because of Queen Charlotte’s patronage in 1765, was called Queen’s ware. Wedgwood had the good fortune to be the first to mass produce crockery at the time when the food industry was expanding with beverages including tea, coffee and chocolate began to arrive in large quantities

On one of his regular brows through to Liverpool, he satisfied the merchant Thomas Bentley in 1762. Since his business had actually spread out from the British Isles to the Continent, Wedgwood expanded his business to the nearby Brick House (or Bell Works) manufacturing facility. In 1768 Bentley became his partner in the manufacture of decorative products that were mostly unglazed stonewares in various colors, formed and embellished in the preferred design of Neoclassicism, to which Josiah lent wonderful impetus. Chief for these wares were black basaltes, which by the addition of red encaustic painting could be used to imitate Greek red-figure vases; and jasper, a fine-grained vitreous body resulting from the high firing of paste containing barium sulphate (cauk). For his ornamental vases, Wedgwood developed a manufacturing facility called Etruria, to which the manufacture of useful merchandises was also moved about 1771– 73 (there his descendants continued the business up until 1940, when the manufacturing facility was relocated at Barlaston, Staffordshire). The most famous artist he used at Etruria was the sculptor John Flaxman, whose wax pictures and other relief figures he equated into jasperware.

As an industrialist, Wedgwood was a major backer of the Trent and Mersey Canal dug between the River Trent and River Mersey. This allowed reduced costs associated with bringing in material and sending his merchandise to the shops in London, Manchester and Birmingham. Much of Wedgwood’s work related to the kitchen and even today, many kitchen showrooms will feature examples of Wedgwood pottery. It seems that Wedgwood would have enjoyed taking his grandchildren Charles Darwin and his sister Emma to Devon and Cornwall. Perhaps this would account for some of the stories relating to Probate Plymouth.

Wedgwood’s accomplishments were huge and diversified. His wares appealed specifically to the increasing European bourgeois course, and porcelain and faience manufacturing plants suffered seriously from competition with him. Every kind of shape and function Wedgwood checked out. His innovation of the pyrometer, a device for determining high temperatures (vital for assessing oven heats for shootings), made him commendation as a fellow of the Royal Society. Amongst the many dazzling scientists with whom he was friends or worked together was Erasmus Darwin, who encouraged him to buy steam-powered engines; thus, in 1782 Etruria was the first manufacturing facility to install such an engine. Their work is on display in the Science Museum.

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