Scottish Pottery: Art and Innovation
A story of Scottish industrialisation told through ceramics
Presented as part of Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Architecture in 2017, this small display of pieces from the National Museum of Scotland's collection offers anything but a comprehensive view upon the subject for enthusiasts of the form, although the same audience will doubtless enjoy what's on offer amid a far-reaching selection which looks back on two and a half centuries of pottery production. As the accompanying text notes, in the Forth and Clyde valleys of the 19th century, whole communities were based around the production of pottery and ceramics, an industry which eventually found an international audience.
Despite the relatively small size of the display, each of the couple of dozen items on show is distinctive and tells its own story, as much about the particular personalities of the great pottery production firms of the time as the country itself. The stands give information about Czech immigrant Karel Nekola's Kirkcaldy-based Fife Pottery and its distinctive, flower-printed Wemyss Ware line; Glasgow provost Laurence Dinwiddie's Delftfield Pottery, created in 1748 as the first industrial pottery in Scotland, and a company which earned investment and business advice from James Watt; and Robert Cochran's Glasgow-based Britannia Pottery, which exported to North America and South-East Asia.
Examples on show include Nekola's signature cottage roses design on a large umbrella stand pot and his more detailed images of a bird of prey on a dessert plate and a jug decorated with the crest of the nearby Earlshall Castle; elaborately embossed jugs from the Dunmore and Newbigging Potteries dating back to the late 19th century; pristine white items from Delftfield displayed alongside one of only two known goblets in their imposing 'Egyptian Black' style; and a number of plates with international scenes and designs, revealing the aesthetic of international trade in the 19th century. Many of the pieces are beautiful, but it's in these glints of social history that this exhibition suggests a larger story.
Scottish Pottery: Art and Innovation is at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until Sun 25 Jun.