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Top artist gives rare pottery collection to Wednesbury museum

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 07, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Smethwick-born artist Stephen Morris displays one of his rare Ruskin Pottery pieces

  • Some of the Ruskin Pottery pieces given to Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery

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LAST week Smethwick-born artist Stephen Morris returned to the Black Country to make a special donation to a local museum.

Stephen had come from his home in France to present to Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery his collection of Ruskin Pottery.

"I was given my first piece, a blue bowl, for my birthday around 40 years ago," said Stephen.

"I then collected some more and bought my last one around 25 years ago. Since then it has become just too expensive to collect.

"I had them on display, along with my own work, at my home in France but I thought they would be better off here in Wednesbury, where everybody can see them."

The museum, in Holyhead Road, Wednesbury, already has a large collection of the highly sought-after pottery.

Ruskin Pottery was established in 1898 by Edward R. Taylor, the first headmaster of Birmingham Municipal School of Arts and Crafts from 1877-1903.

The works were in Oldbury Road, Smethwick, and the company was named in honour of John Ruskin, whose philosophy Taylor greatly admired.

In 1912 Taylor's son, William Howson Taylor, took over the business. He had already developed the innovative glazes for which Ruskin Pottery became famous.

His brightly-coloured pots, vases, jewellery and tea services featured misty soufflé glazes, ice crystal effect glazes, lustre glazes resembling metallic finishes, and, the most highly regarded of all, "sang de boeuf" and Flambe glazes which produced a blood red effect.

The studio won many international prizes, but when William H. Taylor died in 1935 the business was wound up and the secret formulae of his unique glazes were destroyed so that his work could not be replicated.

Painter, sculptor and poet Stephen has had more than 50 one-man exhibitions in the last 20 years and his work has appeared in publications such as the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Rolling Stone and Tribune.

In 2001 he was made a Companion of the Guild of St George, the society that was founded by John Ruskin in the 1870s.

Also on display at the gallery, until August 30, is the exhibition 400 Years of the Selfie.

This explores how we make sure that those seeing our images view us in certain ways and how our portraits say something about us, and how this was the same for our ancestors.

On display are Elizabethan portraits on loan from Ingestre Hall, once home to the Earls of Shrewsbury and now a residential arts centre owned by Sandwell Council, and Victorian photographs and recent images.

People are encouraged to send the museum their own "selfies" to join the exhibition.

Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2-5pm, and admission is free.

For more information call 0121 556 0683.

Have you been to see this rare pottery exhibition? What did you think of it? Write to us with your thoughts at The Black Country Bugle, Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL, or email editor@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or log on to wwww.blackcountry bugle.co.uk

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