Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tait modernism

I was car booting last weekend and found a little gem. Have a look at this lovely old pot – yes, it's missing a lid and has a chip on its spout, but it's just gorgeous. A modernist shape and a perky hand painted design, perfect for a bunch of jolly flowers to pep up a windowsill as we trundle into autumn.


I found it, as I often find these things, at the bottom of a grubby old box of stuff under the ubiquitous wallpapering table at a car boot sale. It cost me 50p and was covered in years of dirt and looked so sad. But I knew instantly that it was designed by one of my very favourite pottery designers; the marvellous Jessie Tait (pictured below, left). 
This design, Fiesta, was produced around 1953 and is just one of many brilliant designs Tait came up with during her 50+ year career working for various Stoke-on-Trent potteries; most notably Midwinter, then later J&G Meakin, Wedgwood and Johnson Brothers.

Her work is difficult to pigeonhole because it was ever evolving and moving with the times: a quick look at the few pieces of hers I've collected over the years (car boot, jumble, eBay and junk shop finds all) demonstrate this perfectly. Here's my very favourite – below. The 1957 design is called Quite Contrary, which makes me love it all the more.

A more atomic fifties design you could not find, with its starbursts and delicious black, turquoise and pink colourway popping off the plate. I only started making cakes and biscuits so I could serve them on these four precious tea plates I found lurking on eBay for a snip at £2.50 the lot. I still can't work out how, as this design goes for large sums of money – think I got lucky that day.

Fast forward to 1971 and take a look at this beauty, above (found by my mum in a charity shop and re-homed with lucky me). The Inca design Tait produced for J&G Meakin's new "studio" shape coffee pot. It's a seventies dream; mesmerising repeat pattern, ever so slightly psychedelic and coupled with the palette of the decade – oranges, browns, yellows and black – it's practically a logo for the era. I love it and it never fails to bring out my inner Abigail's Party when I brew up a pot of coffee.

A 1971 classic for J&G Meakin is Galaxy (although I think the design was introduced early in the sixties): the colours alone are perfectly matched, not to mention the groovy spirograph style patterns. I've only got a platter (£1, a car boot find) but it looks lovely in my green kitchen. Tait's work is even on display at the V&A where they have many lovely examples of her designs too.

But back to the fifties and back to that Fiesta pattern: hand-painted free-form tadpoles, stripes and cross-hatching galore, matched with yet another unusual, but somehow perfect, colour combination. Jessie Tait's designs are myriad and marvellous and I will continue my rummages on a quest to find more.

Post by Abi

1 comment:

  1. I love Jessie Tait, a lovely post about her - thanks. I have lots of Meakin Galaxy, in fact just gave a teapot to a charity shop so get over to Hackney!

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