Having a Smashing Time with Ceramics Old and New

My grandmother was mad about ceramics and couldn't pass a plate without taking an enticing glance at it. My mother inherited this trait but her addiction ran even deeper and her crockery cupboard was piled so high that the plates on the bottom had shattered under the weight of her collection. They both loved the classic pieces, Imari, willow pattern, Wedgewood and Spode. Classic blue and white ruled and Chinese influence shone through. 

For a long time, I thought I had escaped this affliction by turning my attention to glass, bright and sparkling in many beautiful colours. But then something happened, ceramics became cool again and I fell head over heels in love with pottery. 

This all started whilst trying to put a dinner service together. I was underwhelmed by what I was seeing in the shops so I started to hunt on ebay and found that I was loving the shapes of retro ceramics. Before this, I was never a fan of the classic 60s and 70s styles and colours but as I scrolled through the items for sale I found myself attracted to the more modern designs from these retro brands that had become a little lost over the years. What I loved most is that I could blend them really well with modern pieces I already owned to build an amazing and affordable collection of crockery that would be all my own. 

Ceramics are now hitting a revival with everyone and the Scandinavian invasion I've been seeing in accessories departments has my new passion all a-flutter! It turns out I have caught the same disease two generations of women before me had. I'm Phoebe Oldrey and I'm a ceram-aholic. Here are some of the manufacturers that feed my addiction.

Poole Pottery – Twin Tone

Poole Pottery was established in 1873 and was originally called Carter's Industrial Tile Manufactory. They started out by producing tiles depicting symbols of London for the Underground but evolved over the years and as they added more directors and product ranges they became Poole Pottery. 

In the 1940s, they created a range called Twin Tone and introduced new colours to the range every year. In 1956 they released my favourite Twin Tone collection, Sky Blue and Dove Gray. I was first introduced to this collection when my mother-in-law gave me a platter as she was downsizing her kitchen. I immediately fell in love with its fresh colours and simplicity. Twin Tone remained in production until 1981 and you can usually shop some great pieces spanning over the three decades of its production on ebay, at antique markets, or in retro stores. Because of its availability, it doesn't cost too much to pull a dinner service of Poole Pottery together. 

Poole Pottery had a mixed history in the early noughties. It was sold in 2003 and went into administration in 2006. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Poole Pottery is now back and resumed operations in 2007 under Lifestyle Group Ltd. Whilst I'm so pleased it's back, I'm sorry to say that they have yet to reintroduce Twin Tone. 

Bloomingville

Bloomingville is one of the new kids on the block in the ceramics neighbourhood. You can't look at any interiors shop, either on the high street or online, without running into the Danish design brand. Bloomingville isn't limited only to ceramics, they also make accessories (including gold cheese graters!), furniture, and lighting. Their items are filling our homes and I'm seeing their ceramics everywhere! I love the architectural element to their design and I have their vases and tea light holders scattered around my home and featured in many of my photoshoots. Various bits of their prolific range can be bought from Graham and Green, Amara and Houseology and the prices are phenomenal! Their items are great value for money. 

Hornsea – Summit

I stumbled across an image from the Summit collection on Pinterest and was surprised as it wasn't in the style I would normally associate with Hornsea, which is the epitome of retro crockery. Hornsea was founded in 1949 and sadly, like so many pottery manufacturers, became defunct in 2000. Famous for their chunky brown pottery with Heirloom and Bronte, their ceramics defined the 70s. However, the lesser known 1960s design, Summit, is much more my bag and its blue colourway blends really well with my Poole Pottery collection. I really like the retro aspect of the sugar shakers, jugs, vinegar shaker, and cruet set, which are all items I just couldn't buy new. Suddenly fish & chips can be served with a hip, retro style! 

Sadler England

I first encountered Sadler England while hunting on ebay for eggcups to use in a photoshoot and was blindsided by by these gorgeous blue pots. James Sadler and Sons Ltd was founded in 1882 in Stock-on-Trent and sadly went the way of both Hornsea and Poole Pottery in 2000 when it went into receivership. 

This coffee set was a little bit of a find and certainly not the type of pottery you normally associate with Sadler, who were famous for The Brown Betty Teapot, which is probably the most iconic teapot of all time. They also made themed teapots with ladies in Crinolines and Art Deco racing cars. I often associate their typical ceramics with something a great aunt might wheel out for high tea (think metallic roses and fussy shapes). Yet amid all those collections sits this beautiful range, which looks a little like Portmeirion’s TOTEM range. This colourway doesn't pop up very often, as a sexy olive green is more readily available, but its rarity makes it even more of an undiscovered gem. Plus the prices are still really low. I managed to build this entire coffee set for less than £40.00 from ebay and have paired it with coffee mugs from The Decorator's Notebook. It's perfect for after dinner coffee, apart from the fact that I actually drink tea! 

Broste Copenhagen

This chic Scandinavian brand from Copenhagen started in 1955 and is beginning to nip at the heels of Bloomingville with its production of beautiful and affordable ceramics. I love the blush pinks, greys and blues which are so bang on trend at the moment. The hearty rustic nature of these vessels also feels so now and yet so Viking! Pieces can still be a little difficult to hunt down but Rigby and Mac have a fantastic collection.  

There are many more ceramic brands to discover, both new and old, so start hunting around for collections that catch your eye today! Though many established pottery companies didn't make it through the first years of this millennium, their products live on, so put a little history on your table and mix in a few modern items to make the best table setting ever! 

This post came together thanks to a number of people so I'd like extend some extra special thanks. First, I'd like to give a big thank you to Toby Dicker, Amanda Dicker & Jimmy Goodwin for inviting us to use the relaxation area at their amazing salon The Chapel for this photoshoot and for taking such amazing care of us while there. I'd also like to give a shout-out to The Camden Quarter who kindly lent us the copper pot for the Hornsea Summit shots.  Thank you all for helping me produce this shoot! 

Styling by Phoebe Oldrey of Smartstyle Interiors. Photography by Kate Sims.