Charlotte Hodes and Paul Scott Hodes are leading contemporary artists who have long associations with the now extant Copeland/Spode Company. Both explore the language of printed decorative ceramics in their artwork and both have work in prominent public collections including the Potteries Museum and V&A in London.
The Spode Museum Trust was established in 1987 to protect the Spode Archive in perpetuity. The archive includes some 40,000 ceramic items spanning over two hundred years from the late eighteenth century to 2008. There are collections of antique factory tools, furniture and molds, as well as a quarter of a million Spode and Copeland documents, including watercolor paintings of 70,000 ceramic patterns. The archive also includes over 25,000 engraved copper plates (dating back to 1800) from which ceramic transfer wares were made.
The collection of copper plates at Spode is the finest archive of graphic material relating to decorative tableware anywhere in the world. A valuable and vital part of British heritage, it has international significance because of its unique nature and the widespread dissemination of printed transferwares during the nineteenth century. The engravings were a working archive right up until the closure of Spode and whilst the ceramic ware is well known, these plates are completely under-researched. They are the secret remains of an industry.
Hodes and Scott have been awarded £14,850 by Arts Council England to enable initial access to the archives for sorting, limited sample printing and digitization. Using digital tools to clone, collage and re-mediate, they will re-pattern, re-scale and re-place to create new artworks, which re-animate the historical.
The first outcomes of the research will be shown at Paul Scott’s solo exhibition at the Holburne Museum in Bath during the autumn of 2014.
This preliminary investigation is the precursor to a more comprehensive long term research project, which, if funded, will involve Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design, University of the Arts London, University of the West of England, and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA.
Scott and Hodes presented further details of the project and its background at Beyond Blue, a one day symposium organized by the Fine Print Research Department, University West of England at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London on January 23rd, 2014. The symposium brought together leading academic researchers, industry experts and artists to discuss differing aspects of underglaze ceramic printing and transfer ware.
Above image: Engraved copper plate, tools, and documents from the Spode Archive. Courtesy of the Copeland/Spode Company.