Stoke Art Map Weekend

Part I: An Introduction To Spode

Chloe Evans || September 23rd

Saturday the 24th September will be an exciting day in Stoke-On-Trent, seeing the Launch of a three month artist’s residency at the former Spode Factory, ‘exploring the nature of creative ‘work’ in a changing city’ which will lead to an exhibition in early 2017, ACAVA will officially launch their own 40 studios and the Friends of Spode Rose Garden will be opening the factory garden after hours of excruciating work and help from volunteers who have invigorated the space to create a ‘community oasis’.

Slowly we are seeing a change in our local areas, with many independent shops opening, derelict pubs being turned into beautiful spots to hold workshops, murals being painted on once lifeless walls, and now our old Spode Factory is having life breathed back into it and this weekend is a triumphant moment for that full of celebration. Spode was a history dating back to 1776 when Josiah Spode I obtained the site and Spode wares were made continuously until 2008. Being one of the two largest potteries in Staffordshire it proudly boasted 22 bottle ovens with over a thousand employees. Spode remains one of the most unique of its kind, with a large proportion of its interiors unaltered since the 19th century and features such as The Tall Engine House Chimney which dates back to 1810, the Spode Factory Bell which is embossed with ‘1800’ and the China Clay Cellar below the China Terrace which dates to c.1800. Another unique part of Spode is the documentation of everyday life that has been recorded over the past 200 years and now persevered by the Spode Museum Trust. In more recent day Spode has been a popular site for tourists, students, ceramic lovers, exhibitions, workshops, photoshoots, The British Ceramic Biennial festivals and much more.

Recently history seems to be taking a different turn for Spode, on the 11th of August filming took place by the BBC Antique Roadshow, Catherine Southon was present and participated in the underglaze transfer printing process and now we are seeing the opening of 40 new artists’ studios. With the huge changes underway Spode isn’t forgetting where it came from, and the people who spent many years working for them, most Saturdays you can speak to an ex-paintress and Spode employee who demonstrates china painting, most Fridays you can meet David Bailey another ex-Spode employee who specialises in raised paste and enamel work with an extraordinary skill which turns plain white plates into ‘glittering jewels for the most opulent tables’ and just recently an open day was held for all ex-employees of Spode and their friends and family to celebrate their contribution to one of the world’s most iconic ceramic companies.

Previously it was reported that there was plans for a supermarket to replace Spode, though these plans were dropped and replaced by ideas that would heighten our cultural presence and bring back a part of greatness that was once Spode. It was reported that a ‘19m masterplan’ would be underway which included the 40 artist’s studios, an ‘incubator for a start-up business’, a possibility of shops, an improved Visitors Centre, and the opportunity for more student accommodation . With all plans this came with both positive and negative feedback from locals and shop owners, this weekend all will be revealed and we can see the beginning of the renovation that has been long sought after in our community. Spode has an incredibly interesting history and is a huge part of our cultural progression, past and present and will forever be a credit. Though it’s unique being preserved in such a way that would leave areas as they were in the 19th century, its time now for our historic city to have some new life blown in, dusting off the cobwebs of ‘what was’ and leaving us feeling the fresh newness and sense of pride in ‘what is’ and have us excited for the plans that will follow.