Josiah Wedgwood was born in Burslem, Staffordshire,
England. His father was a potter himself and at the age of fourteen,
Wedgwood was apprenticed to his brother Thomas, who was also a potter.
Wedgwoods heirs Josiah Wedgwood
& Sons still run the business today.
Wedgwood soon recognised the potential market that existed for
ceramics in England, due to the backwardness of techniques and ideas
at the time. He discarded traditional Staffordshire forms and began
incorporating elements of 'higher' Rococo and Neo-classical art
into his work, creating articles that were to become fashionable
amongst the 'high society' of England.
His first great success was the perfection of a cream-colored
crockery. The chemical composition was actually that of a stoneware
clay, but it was fired to an earthenware temperature and lead-glazed,
giving it its characteristic creamy yellow color. This cream-colored
ware became very popular, especially after Wedgwood was conferred
Royal patronage by Queen Charlotte of England, after which the ware
was called 'Queen's Ware'. The Cream Ware was often decorated using
a then new technique called Transfer Printing (widely
used today), which was invented by John Saddler of Liverpool, who
collaborated with Wedgwood from 1761 onwards.
In 1769, around the time of the rise of neo-classicism in europe,
Wedgwood devised a new clay body, which was to be known as 'Black
Etruscan' or 'Black Basalt' ware. This was a clay body made from
a red iron-bearing clay with additions of manganese-dioxide, which
gave it its black color. The formula rendered the clay quite hard
and dense after firing and it was possible to give it a highly polished
Almost synonymous with the name Wedgwood has become his famous
'blue and white' ware or 'Jasper
Ware'. Jasper Ware was made from a clay body invented
and tested by Wedgwood himself. It took him several years to come
up with the result, which was first introduced in 1774. The
Jasper Ware body was a pure white, but could be colored
in numerous ways. Usually it was colored a light to medium blue,
with pure white bas-relief ornaments added. These would be made
in separate molds and carefully attached at the leather-hard stage.
There is a long list of items that were made in the Jasper Ware,
including cameos, seals, medallions, candlesticks, tea-ware and
Nowadays, authenticating original Wedgwood ware is done with the
help of Signature
Marks, which Wedgwood used from as early as 1759.
Wedgwood continued to produce ceramics and explore new techniques
until his death in 1795.