Gaudy Welsh pottery
In effect, Gaudy Welsh pottery marks the transition between hand-produced and mass-produced china. Although an important part of Wales’ ceramic heritage, Gaudy Welsh pottery boats international influences: the famous, and some might say, timeless, Gaudy Welsh pattern was inspired by Japanese ceramics.
Gaudy Welsh began life as a cheap and cheerful line of brightly decorated pottery. It was sold at fairs and market stalls during the nineteenth century, occupying the lives, and filling the dressers, of ordinary families. As such, relatively little has been written on the subject of Gaudy Welsh wares. Comparatively cheap and largely unmarked, Gaudy Welsh might be understood as a “cottage ware”.
Despite its name, Gaudy Welsh pottery was made across quite a broad geographical area (including areas in western and central England), from around 1820 – a time of change and innovation in terms of ceramic production.
Since Gaudy Welsh pottery was produced by disparate groups of craftspeople, individual examples can differ in quality a great deal. What unites all Gaudy Welsh is the abstract, floral pattern the pottery was decorated in – although the quality of the painting may vary from artful to slap-dash.
The name “Gaudy Welsh” comes from America. During the nineteenth century a large number of Welsh people emigrated to North America, taking their Gaudy Welsh cottage ware along with them. The word “Gaudy” may have had negative undertones, suggesting the observant Americans found their Welsh cousin’s pottery overly bright and a little primitive.
The name “Gaudy Welsh” was almost unknown in Britain (except, perhaps, among those families with transatlantic connections). The cottage wares were instead labelled “Swansea Cottage”.
Among the first people’s pottery, Gaudy Welsh was manufactured cheaply and sold to working class families at markets, fairs and from door to door. It was produced by a number of ceramics manufactories, including both small family firms, and rapidly expanding industrial potteries.
The Welsh ceramics market was buoyed by a strong woodworking tradition; the traditional Welsh dresser provided the perfect place for a housewife to display her collection to its best advantage.
The vast majority of Gaudy Welsh pottery was produced between 1820 and 1860 – a period of great economic expansion and technological advancement. As pottery making technologies improved, new factories sprung up, while smaller, family-run firms increasingly merged, or were forced to closer altogether. Less individuality was borne out at lower cost. Duly, Gaudy Welsh gradually moved closer to mass production in terms of form, function, design and decoration.
Because it was made cheaply, in a number of regions by a number of manufacturers, Gaudy Welsh is difficult to date and/or attribute to a specific pottery. It is largely unmarked, and is identifiable as Gaudy Welsh only by dint of the vibrant pattern in which pieces were painted.
Also little is known about the practice of assigning pattern names. It appears that they were not given at the time of production, but were developed later and over a considerable period of time.
Made in both England and Wales between 1820 and 1860, the earthenware, creamware, ironstone and bone china is decorated in charming patterns picked out in underglaze cobalt blue, often in panels, rust or burnt orange and copper lustre, while floral decoration often included pink lustre, green and yellow, all on a white background.It appealed to people of modest incomes in both Britain and the United States, and even today connoisseur collectors are dismissive of Gaudy Welsh. It’s not as posh as the porcelain from Meissen, Chelsea or Worcester or any of the wondrous products of Japan or China, although that is undoubtedly where it has its roots.
Since the prices of Gaudy Welsh items are relatively low, condition is a key concern. Collectors are advised to only buy mint pieces unless they absolutely can't live without a particular damaged item.
A Gaudy Welsh chamber pot sold for $15 in the US in November 2005.
A group of Gaudy Welsh dinnerware sold for $325 in the US in June 2007.
A Gaudy Welsh tureen sold for $30 at Martin Auction Co in November 2012.
Five pieces of Gaudy Welsh, including a rare bulbous tea pot, sold for $700 in the US in June 2007.
A large Gaudy Welsh platter sold for $700 in the US in September 2005.
A set of 12 exceptional Gaudy Welsh plates sold for $1,300 in UK in May 2007.
A Staffordshire Gaudy Welsh jug sold for $850 in the US in November 2006.
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