TABLETOP: WEDGWOOD WHITE BONE CHINA

“WEDGWOOD WHITE” bone china

Josiah Wedgwood was born in Staffordshire, England to a family whose members had been potters since the 17th century.  His exceptional skill at the potter’s wheel, developed working in the family business, was curtailed when he contracted smallpox as a young apprentice, resulting in the amputation of his right leg.   The boy who, by his death at the close of the 18th century would be considered the leading potter of his day, could no longer operate the wheel.

The inactivity imposed by his handicap gave him time to read, research and experiment in his craft.  He became known for his scientific approach to pottery making, his exhaustive research into materials, and for his business organization and marketing acumen.  His products, initially unglazed stoneware decorated with Neoclassical designs, appealed to the rising European bourgeois class, although the aristocracy appreciated his work as well; In 1774 Empress Catherine the Great of Russia ordered a gargantuan service of 952 pieces of Wedgwood’s creamware.  (Although hardly aristocratic, American President Theodore Roosevelt later ordered 1,296 pieces of armorial bone china for the White House.)  Josiah’s invention of the pyrometer, a device that measured high temperatures and was useful in controlling oven heats for firings, earned him commendation as a fellow of the Royal Society.  His factory was the first to install a steam powered engine.

His company’s official web site reports that “many common sales techniques such as direct mail, money back guarantees, free delivery, celebrity endorsement, illustrated catalogs and buy one get one free came from Josiah Wedgwood.”  Josiah’s son, John, joined with a group of friends to found the Royal Horticultural Society.  His daughter, Susannah, was the mother of Charles Darwin, the celebrated scientist and proponent of the theory of human evolution.

While some might consider it plain, I like “Wedgwood White,” the bone china service pictured above, not just because of its beautiful luster and shapes, but also because it is versatile.  It is equally comfortable with traditional or contemporary, formal or casual table settings and it easily accommodates diverse serving pieces and linens of virtually any style, color or pattern.

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