Hold the front page, I have two new tea mugs. They are blue and white. They were bought in the factory shop at Middleport, also known as Burleigh, pottery near Stoke-on-Trent the other week. It’s Britain’s last working Victorian pottery and the Telegraph had sent me there to write a piece – here – on the new restoration project.
My mum used to collect blue and white china but I had never appreciated the skill that goes into getting the pattern onto those pots. It’s all done by hand, by a process called tissue transfer. Sheets and sheets of white tissue paper are turned through a roller that looks a bit like a mangle, if a mangle were engraved and had cobalt-blue ink on it. A roomful of “transfererers” then go at the patterned tissue with scissors, snipping the bits they need and sticking them by hand on the pot. Like this:
They have to get it right first time because once it touches the pot, it can’t be moved. Just imagine trying to match all those borders up. They also have to snip those borders to precisely the right length. How do they know? I asked. “You just do,” I was told firmly.
The design you can see above is called Asiatic Pheasant – look closely and you can see the birds – which is the most popular.
Once the tissue has been smoothed, and dried, it can be washed off, leaving just the ink on the pots which are carried off to be fired.
Those are two men with a very good sense of balance.
And here are the two cups I bought in the same pattern. They have been improving my mood of a morning immeasurably. And, I know this isn’t wine but I sometimes think tea- and what it is drunk out of – is more important. Now I’m off to Rioja. Alcoholic service will be resumed later in the week.