Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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Image courtesy of Lema Publishing Ltd, publishers of ‘Tableware International’ www.tablewareinternational.com

Last updated: 1st August 2011

DOULTON (BURSLEM) ART DIRECTORS

The art directors at Nile St, Burslem were:

John Slater (1877-1914)

Charles Noke (1914-1936)

Cecil Noke (1936-1954)

Joseph W. Ledger (1955-?)

John Slater

John Slater was born in Derby in 1844 and trained at the Stoke-on-Trent School of Design. He was an apprentice at Minton Ltd training as a painter under Joseph-Francois-Leon Arnoux. A talented painter, he succeeded his brother Albert Slater as the art director of Pinder, Bourne & Co. at Nile St, Burslem. He continued as art director of Doulton & Co. Burslem from 1887 and was largely responsible for attracting and developing the large group of artist-decorators on which the reputation of the Doulton earthenware and bone china was built.

Slater’s talents were not limited to painting and he was involved in the development of ‘rouge flambe’ and many of the other special glazes used on Doulton’s ornamental ware in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Slater was also responsible for the development of a unique parian body, and for various patents for processes concerned with transfer printing from photographic plates onto ceramics .

During his time at Nile St, Slater built up a large collection of Doulton’s ornamental wares (both Lambeth and Burslem ware). In 1919 this collection was sold to Doulton’s long-time Australian agent John Shorter, and the collection is now housed in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

Slater died in 1914 and was succeeded as art director at Nile St by his long-time associate Charles Noke.

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Charles John Noke

Charles John Noke was born at Worcester in 1858 and as a child grew up surrounded by the fine porcelain figures collected by his antique-dealer/collector father and developed an early interest in ceramic sculpture. As a child he was familiar with the work of the gifted Worcester modeller James Hadley, and at 16 he became an apprentice at the Royal Worcester Porcelain factory and attended the Worcester School of Design.

After 16 years working at Worcester, Noke joined John Slater at Nile St in 1889 as the chief designer and modeller. His initial work was the modelling and decoration of large vases displayed at the various International exhibitions of the time. By 1894 he was modelling figures in a parian china with a matt ivory ‘vellum’ glaze. Many of these models were later (post-1913) re-issued in porcelain.

Although not a glaze chemist, Noke was involved with Slater, Cuthbert Bailey, Bernard Moore and others in the development of the ‘rouge flambe’ glaze in the early 1900s, and subsequently with the special glazes used on the rarely seen ‘Chang’ and ‘Sung’ ornamental ware.

Noke was instrumental in the introduction of Doulton’s Kingsware from 1898, Series Ware depicting characters from legend, literature, history and song from about 1906, the Doulton porcelain figurines from 1913, and the earthenware character jugs from 1934.

Noke succeeded John Slater as the art director at Nile St in 1914 and retired from the position in 1936 at the age of 78 - although he continued to work in his studio until his death in 1941. He was succeeded as art director by his son Cecil Jack Noke.

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Cecil Jack Noke

Son of Charles Noke, Cecil Jack Noke joined Doulton in about 1920 following service in the Army during the First World War. He studied at the Stoke and Burslem Schools of Art and trained at Nile St under the noted decorators Leonard Bentley and Robert Allen. Although not a modeller in the tradition of his father, he was a talented designer with a special interest in etching and engraving and was responsible for many of the notable Doulton tableware designs of the 1930s. He succeeded his father as art director in 1936 and died, unexpectedly, in 1954.

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Joseph W. Ledger

Joseph Ledger succeeded Cecil Noke as Art Director at Burslem in 1954 and remained in the position for the next forty years.

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©Michael Perry 2011