Bodo Sperlein has long had an affinity towards Stoke-on-Trent due to its illustrious heritage and prestigious level of artisanal ceramic craftsmanship.
For over 250 years, Stoke-on-Trent has remained a bustling centre of ceramic production. Known as The Potteries, this area of Staffordshire has maintained its global status as leading the world in ceramic innovation, from tableware to bricks and advanced ceramic technology.
By 1800 Stoke-on-Trent was the world’s centre of pottery production. Josiah Wedgwood was a pioneering figure in the development of the canal system in Stoke-on-Trent, allowing for the transportation of raw materials and for delicate ceramics to be transported to the UK’s main shipping ports.
Later with the introduction of the railway system a far more economical and quicker means of transporting goods across the country was underway. By 1848 Stoke’s own railway station was open for both public and commercial use and consequently the rate of production and delivery of ceramics increased. Stoke-on-Trent’s global reputation as an industrial powerhouse expanded and its contribution to the British economy was on a par with other northern industrial cities like Sheffield and Manchester.
As the industry grew, over a period of time the borough of Stoke-on-Trent was gradually made up of six towns. By 1910 it was declared as a city and united the towns of Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton.
At the height of Stoke-on-Trent’s industry 4,000 brick built bottle kilns were in use, taking three days for a bisque firing to reach between 1000˚C and 1250˚C. They remained to be built until the 1950s. With the introduction of the 1953 Clean Air Act, the number of coal firings reduced gradually with electric powered kilns replacing bottle kilns entirely by 1965. As an iconic symbol of the city’s landscape, today many bottle kilns are registered as listed buildings and are undergoing renovation.
Global manufacturing names Wedgwood, Churchill and Steelite remain to design and produce their ceramic collections in Stoke-on-Trent. With over 350 independent ceramic focused businesses in production in Stoke, the skill and craftsmanship of working with this incredibly dynamic material has been passed onto generations. This has profoundly contributed to paving the way for future ceramic businesses to flourish.
Fine bone china has long been considered a quintessentially British material and has been used in Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic production since the late 18th century. Due to the industrial revolution, the rate of the wealthy middle classes throughout the world grew and a dinner set fashionably became the hallmark of social status. Most families will have a bone china figurine or tea cup and saucer in their homes handed down through generations.
Porcelain and china tableware remain to be luxury items for the modern home today. Bodo Sperlein’s signature bone china White Sculptural collection is handmade in an independent dedicated ceramics workshop in Stoke-on-Trent.
The precision and time spent on creating each White Sculptural piece is testament to the craft techniques and traditional methods of making that Stoke-on-Trent prides itself on.