Paul Scott describes his work Italian Willow as a ‘ceramic collage’. Two halves of two different dishes are melded into one – the associated artwork being Willow Italian (GAC 18732). Italian Willow shows a dish decorated with an ‘Italian’ design on the left, and an ‘Willow’ design on the right, while Willow Italian shows the other halves of the dishes the other way round.
These dishes have an interesting history. Founded in 1770 in the heart of a thriving, industrial Stoke-on-Trent, the Spode company perfected a commercially successful method of manufacturing blue and white ceramics, known as blue under-glaze printing or transferware printing. Vastly popular, Spode produced wares on the same factory site in Stoke-on-Trent until 2008 when the company entered administration. In 2009, Scott was given access to the closed factory site, and permission to collect a limited number of abandoned objects. Here, the artist has combined two of the last wares salvaged from the Spode Factory in 2009.
Scott has deliberately selected the two most commercially successful, instantly recognisable, and longest-running designs in the Spode range. Introduced around 1816, ‘Italian’ combines a border copied from an Imari design on Chinese export porcelain of about 1735, with a central landscape inspired by the Italian countryside. It is thought the scene is a composite made up of several elements that a travelling artist on the Grand Tour may have combined from sketches drawn around Italy. For example, the ruin on the left might have been based on the Great Bath at Tivoli, near Rome, while the castle in the distance is built in the Northern Italian style. First produced in the late 1700s and early 1800s, ‘Willow’ is also a composite pattern, made up of elements of 18th century Chinese porcelain designs but for which there is no Chinese original.
These two fantasy landscapes are joined with gold in a technique much like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, or ‘golden joinery’, in which broken pottery is repaired with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. Rather than understanding breakage and repair as something to disguise, the Kintsugi philosophy highlights these aspects as part of the history of the object.
Scott’s playful intervention seeks to tap into what he describes as ‘the cultural wallpaper in our minds’. He subtly subverts the familiarity of domestic patterns to point to complex histories of industry, trade and empire.
Paul Scott studied at St Martin’s College, Lancaster in the 1970s. His works can be found in public collections including The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway; the Victoria and Albert Museum London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA.
Scott has been Professor of Ceramics at Oslo National Academy of the Arts since 2011, and lives and works in Cumbria. In December 2018, Arts Council England confirmed grant support for Scott’s research project The Special Relationship, Staffordshire and the US. It involves investigations into Staffordshire archives of original transferware material at Wedgwood, the Spode Museum Trust, Burleigh and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
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