V&A Wedgwood Collection at World of Wedgwood
This Spring the V&A Wedgwood Collection at World of Wedgwood at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent welcomes all to visit its new displays and permanent collections in person and to enjoy behind the scenes access to the care of the collection on screens from home.
The V&A Wedgwood Collection is one of the most important industrial collections in the world and a unique record of over 260 years of British ceramic production. Owned by the V&A following a successful fundraising campaign spearheaded by Art Fund, it is on display at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, where an imaginative public programme celebrates the diversity, creativity and depth of the collection, within its local context of North Staffordshire, known as The Potteries.
Wedgwood was founded in 1759 by British potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood, who helped transform English pottery from a cottage craft into an art form and international industry. The Wedgwood family and business had a keen sense of their place in history and started collecting wares and designs as early as the 18th century. A museum has existed since 1906, first at the Etruria Factory site and then from 1952 at Barlaston. A newly designed museum opened in 2008, winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year prize in 2009. It houses the finest collection of Wedgwood material documenting production up to the present day, showcasing innovations in taste and fashion over three centuries.
The V&A Wedgwood Collection comprises over 165,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and photographs charting the factory’s history, designs and ceramic production. It was saved for the nation and gifted to the V&A in 2014 following a major public appeal organised by Art Fund, generously supported by thousands of individuals, companies and grant-making foundations, including significant support from the Heritage Fund and Art Fund.
Around 3,500 objects are on display in the purpose-built museum, showcasing the commercial and aesthetic history of Wedgwood ceramics from iconic jasperware and black basalt vases and ornaments, to bone china tea-sets and classic 20th-century designs. Highlights from the collection include Wedgwood’s early creamware and jasperware experiments, Wedgwood’s copy of the Portland vase, the Wedgwood family portrait of 1780 by George Stubbs, and early examples of the medallion Wedgwood produced to support the Abolitionist cause. The museum charts the Wedgwood story through changing fashions from Rococo to neo-Classical pottery alongside examples of Wedgwood’s pioneering collaborations with artists and designers from John Flaxman to Eduardo Paolozzi. The collections and UNESCO-recognised archives explore the history of the Wedgwood family, from the creative genius of founder Josiah Wedgwood – pioneering businessman and social campaigner – to notable Wedgwood descendants both in and out of the factory, from naturalist Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), and their wider cultural context.
Book showing patterns for Wedgwood ceramics
In celebration of nature and the change of seasons, the Earth and Ware display will highlight objects representing flora and fauna and ask visitors to get involved by creating and contributing paper flowers to the display trail.
In April the V&A Wedgwood Collection will feature in Series 3 of the BBC2’s Secrets of the Museum. Episode 3 on screens 14th April at 8pm will see Chief Curator Catrin and Archivist Lucy display the ‘Travel Tea Set’ designed by Eric Ravilious for the Wedgwood factory ready for Eric’s granddaughter, Ella, to come to visit and see the full set. In Episode 5 on 21st April at 8pm a set of trays containing Josiah Wedgwood’s ceramic experiments go on display in an exhibition by Neil Brownsword at the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent.
Also in April the Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion will be redisplayed following the I Am a Man and a Brother collaborative project with Grace Barrett of I Am Ally and students from the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College. The redisplay will consider project findings, visitor feedback and the input of our project partners.
Earth and Ware: Wedgwood and Nature
6 April – September 2022
The V&A Wedgwood Collection galleries will be bursting with flowers created by the public and visitors will be able to follow a trail to discover wonderful objects inspired by nature and wildlife. A complementary programme of events for all ages digs deeper into questions of climate change and sustainability in the ceramics industry today. On 15th April and 13th May there will be special family-friendly tours.
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Redisplay of the Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion
Following the I Am a Man and a Brother collaborative project with Grace Barrett of I Am Ally and students from the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, with support from ArtFund, the V&A have been working with a community panel of young people and activists to plan the permanent re-display of the Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion. The redisplay will consider project findings, visitor feedback and the input of our project partners regarding the complexities of this object, to present a much more relevant and nuanced display for our audiences.
Paper flower crafting in the atrium
February – September 2022
As part of the Earth and Ware display, visitors will have the chance to craft paper flowers that will be added to the nature and wildlife trail of the galleries.
Museum Lates Event: An Evening with Tom Wedgwood (BBC Art That Made Us)
22 April, 6-8.30pm
Tom Wedgwood is the founder of Catching Light and 8th direct descendant of Josiah Wedgwood. At this Museum Late event Tom will discuss Wedgwood’s heritage of sustainability and what sustainability means in context of Wedgwood’s 260 year history. He’ll explore the challenges Josiah Wedgwood faced in the height of the industrial revolution to the modernisation of the Wedgwood factory production with the creation of the Barlaston site in the 1930s to the current challenges we are facing in today’s environment with climate change, supply chain management, resources and clean energy demands.
Working Clay – Family Trail
A family trail leading visitors through the galleries at the V&A Wedgwood Collection and across the World of Wedgwood. Visitors will encounter workers drawn straight from the archives, from George Eaton the oven man to Millie Taplin the ‘paintress’, finding out about their roles and collecting stamps along the way. Once complete, they will transform their trail sheet into colourful bunting to keep as a memento.