Josiah Wedgwood was instrumental in making English pottery a leader on the world stage. One of his greatest inventions was Jasperware. The smooth, hard stoneware, fashioned in a neoclassical style, rivalled Chinese porcelain in its allure and was snapped up by Georgian consumers, ensuring Wedgwood became a household name. Still produced by the company today, it remains as recognisable now as it was 200 years ago.
INSPIRED BY THE ANCIENTS
From the second half of the 18th century, Britain was gripped by neoclassical fever. Excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii had unearthed captivating treasures, and the architect Robert Adam was designing buildings influenced by ancient Greece and Rome. In Burslem, Josiah Wedgwood was similarly entranced and worked to refine his stoneware into something that might match the artefacts of the ancients. In 1774 he hit on the formula for a hard, finegrained stoneware that could be stained in a variety of colours. The clay was shaped into vases, urns, plaques and tableware, and decorated with applied figures and motifs, inspired by classical art. At the time, the most famous classical artefact was the cameo glass Portland Vase, made in the first century. Josiah worked for many years to replicate it, a feat he finally achieved in 1790.
Behind the Brand: Josiah Wedgwood 1730-1795
It’s hard to overstate Josiah Wedgwood’s contribution to pottery. Born into a family of potters in Burslem, he was the youngest of 12 children, and showed early promise as a potter until smallpox left him unable to operate the wheel. He turned instead to design and experimentation and it was this instinct to find new ways of doing things that led to his success. He embraced the innovations of industrialisation and, by the 1770s, his factory was the most successful pottery in England. Today he is seen as a visionary, who transformed pottery from a cottage craft into an international industry.
4 Ways to Style
INTO THE BLUE
A modern homage to Jasperware is Wedgwood’s new range of Burlington pots (from £55 each). Featuring the iconic Wedgwood blue and white colour scheme, these will bring the spirit of Jasper with a contemporary twist into your home. For best effect, group a few on a window sill and fill with flourishing house plants or herbs.
For a striking display in your kitchen or dining room, arrange your pieces of Jasperware with other collections of vintage ceramics and glassware. Mixing practical and pretty pieces from different styles and eras creates a fresh, eclectic look better suited to a contemporary home than a more formal arrangement of a unifying style.
Classic Jasperware is instantly recognisable and brings a touch of neoclassical elegance to any setting. For subtle impact go for simple, unshowy pieces, like the vase in this picture, and dress with a loose arrangement of flowers.
Wedgwood’s Blue Pebble tableware (from £85) is another reimagining of Jasperware, updated for the 21st-century table. The blue and white stoneware, made from the company’s Jasper formula, is inspired by water-washed pebbles and beautifully complements the natural textures of wood, linen and stone.
Shop the Look: More Jasper pieces to collect
Large Magnolia Blossom Jasper Vase, 18cm, new, £175, Wedgwood
Jasper White on Black Dancing Hours Bowl, new, £3,300, Wedgwood
Blue Jasperware chandelier by Wedgwood, c1910, £3,900, Ebury Trading at Decorative Collective
Midcentury Wedgwood Blue and White Jasperware Pitcher, c1951, £296.11, 1st Dibs