Burleigh Pottery: Factory and Workshop Tour
Posted on November 13 2019
Visiting the Burleigh Pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent to discover the craft that processes that go into every design.
Ever since the 17th Century, Stoke-on-Trent has been famed for its pottery manufacturing and the industrial-scale it produces it in. The location is the original home to many high-end pottery and ceramics brands, internationally recognised as some of the finest in the world. As the industry and demand changed, many have outsourced production, entirely or in part to locations further-a-field, leaving behind the true essence of British manufacturing, following a similar fate to many other creative industries. All is not lost, however, as one still produces all of its pieces from its iconic location in Middleport, retaining traditional techniques and inspiring a new wave of talent that has even attracted attention from across the pond. That brand is Burleigh, and I had the fantastic opportunity of visiting their factory to discover just what it takes to create a piece of Burleigh pottery.
Producing its pottery at the Middleport factory since 1889, a single piece will pass through the hands of over twenty-five skilled artisans during its journey from 'slab' of clay to luxurious tea set and beyond. Burleigh is incredibly proud of its history and has used this to build upon its future, continuing the use of traditional techniques and skillsets that have been replaced by cheaper alternatives in the greater industry. These changes often forfeit the level of quality, producing pieces at a faster rate in a much higher capacity. With the help of The Prince's Regeneration Trust, the factory and facilities have been restored, allowing the history and traditional techniques to continue for generations to come. This is not only important for Burleigh, and it's Middleport factory but for the industry, its craft and Stoke-on-Trent as the celebrated home of British pottery.
One of the most fascinating and defining areas of the design process is with transfer printing; an incredibly rare technique and form of decoration that dates back to the 1750s. Transfer printing involves an engraved metal printing plate or rolling tube that allows ink to pass-through onto fine tissue paper in the desired pattern which is then hand-applied onto earthware such as a teapot or teacup. What is so special about this technique is its uniqueness; no two pieces are the same. Some patterns can be so effective that it is almost impossible to see a join, a consequence of modern-day digital printing techniques that can leave a prominent join line where two edges of a printing layout meet up or overlap.
At a pivotal time in design where people are becoming conscious of elements such as production, skillset and location, there is a gradual shift and appreciation back to hand-crafted, quality designs. Burleigh has attracted attention from some of the most prominent names in homeware, accessories and interiors, launching a collaboration with Soho Home to produce new collections and designs used within their 'houses', creating a highly sort after lifestyle brand that consumers can buy into. It has not stopped there as the Burleigh have now launched its latest collaborative collection with Ralph Lauren, a range described as a marriage between American design and the traditions of hand-crafted English pottery. These collaborations mark a new era for the brand as extends its reach into a new generation of design-conscious individuals.
Looking up at the factory's iconic bottle kiln; a striking silhouette that would have once dominated the city's skyline in its hundreds, everything fits into place and the Burleigh story is complete. The definition of luxury is not only the level of craft and skill set that goes into a piece of work, its the history, time, development, passion and drive of the brand behind the design. You can take a luxury pottery brand out of Stoke-on-Trent, but it will lose its sense of place, the remaining puzzle piece of luxury design that the people of the city have painstakingly worked to develop for hundreds of years. There is only one home of pottery, and I am so proud to see Burleigh continue to promote its values and understanding of exceptional design.
For further information on the brand and to view its collections, click to view the official Burleigh Pottery website via the link.