Feat of Clay is the latest in a whole series of exhibitions held at the V&A featuring work by staff, students and friends of the Ceramics Department at the University of the West of England, Bristol, (UWE). The defining characteristic of the exhibitions are that sessions are organised at the V&A, allowing participants to handle a whole range of museum exhibits and discuss their history, production and aesthetics. The makers then produce work in response to the museum exhibits and the exhibition then displays these new objects and the V&A pieces which inspired them.

Previous exhibitions held at the V&A have included:
NIPON UK, (7 June-15 August '99); MELT DOWN, (8 June-22 August '98); SMASH & GRAB, (5 May-25 June '97); TOUCH & GO, (13 May-7 July '96)

For more details of any of these exhibitions go to the LINKS page and visit the exhibition page of NEVAC's web-site.

The timeline sets some of the V&A objects in their historical context. The drawings are by Jan Booth.

1660 The spectacular slipware made in Staffordshire in the last 80 years of the seventeenth century and the first 10 years of the 18th century were large circular dishes, these were made by Thomas Toft and his sons Thomas and James. Most platters were decorated with an intricate design bordered with trelliswork and an inscription. The slip was trailed and dotted on a coating of white slip. Black, brown, orange or white slips were applied on top. A 'yellow lead glaze' was used over the decoration. In the 16th and 17th century coffee was introduced from Arabia, together tea, coffee and chocolate were changing British drinking habits, replacing beer as the main drink. Coffee drinking became a craze for the well-to-do and after 1650 coffee houses opened up all over London and many other cities and towns.

Robert Hooke used a microscope to study structures of natural objects and published a book "Micrographia".

Completion of Samuel Pepys diaries.
Building of Eddystone lighhouse.
Thomas Toft dish, made in Staffordshire, late 17th century.
The mid 17th century saw the emergence of the 'middle shot' groups of farmers, clergymen and layers. It also saw the growth of magazines, journals and novels.
1672 Agate ware jugs, mugs and other vessels made by John Dwight factory in Fulham, 1672.

Coffee Houses became important meeting places for politicians and intellectuals. Wills Coffee House in Covent Garden was an important venue.
1673 Rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral
1675 Christopher Wren's plans for St Paul's accepted    
1678 Popish plans to murder Charles II   The scientific advances of the 17th century were part of the European movement. Enlightenment grew out of he ideas across Europe. Questioning the traditional teachings of the church and to celebrate the power of human reasoning. Isaac Newton Science and Logic and John Locke's ideas on social needs an influential writer on Government, Education and his 'Essays on Human understanding' reflect the quest for knowledge.
1686 East India Company established in Calcutta  
1687 Publication of Isaac Newton's mathematical principals of natural philosophy  
1689 William and Mary accept declaration of Rights and become joint monarchs  
1693 Some thoughts concerning Education - John Locke  
1694 Bank of England set up  
1695 Bank of Scotland set up  
1696 Royal Board of Trade set up
Slipware cradle, c.1700
1698 Thomas Savery develops the steam pump

Tygs, (drinking vessels with 2 or more handles)made in Staffordshire, 1701

1702 Death of William III
1705 Isaac Newton knighted
Late 17th/early 18th century: Elers red ware - a fine stoneware with a semi-vitrified body. Two brothers, John and David Elers, who had worked in Delft and Cologne, came to England in the late 17th century and started to work as silversmiths. They then moved to Staffordshire to set up apottery in bradwell Wood. Their fine finish was achieved by the introduction of the lathe for turning.
Teapot, Elers style of red stoneware, early 18th century
The 18th century:
Two revolutions occurred in Britain, the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The Agricultural Revolution saw reforms in land management and scientific principals applied to the growing of crops (crop rotation) and the breeding of animals (selective breeding).
1711 St. Pauls Cathedral completed
1712 Thomas Newcomen develops steam-powered engine for use in mines
From about 1720-1730's Aaron Wood and Sons of Big House, Burslem made Buff-coloured stoneware decorated with raised white pipe-clay. This was known as 'Drabware'.
Drabware teapot
, c.1720-30


Agateware cat, c.1720

Until about 1730 pots were either thrown or press moulded. Around this time a new method of slip casting developed allowing for finer and more diverse shapes. Around this time, 'Pew Groups' came in, they were made of white salt glazed stoneware with detail described in 'brown stained' clay.
1727 Death of George I
1728 Cyclopedia published in England, it was the forerunner of the encyclopaedia Trade in the 18th century brought in exotic goods, including Chinese porcelain, teas, spices and cheap cotton from India.

1731 Publication of New Horse Houghing by Jethro Tull
1733 John Kay develops the flying shuttle
Pew Group, salt-glazed stoneware, Staffordshire, c.1730-40
1741 Handel's Messiah written
From about the 1740's colour was first introduced by incising a design into the body of the clay in its leather hard stage and rubbing cobalt clay into the scratched surface, this technique is known as 'Scratch Blue'.

White salt-glazed tea-pot, c.1740
1742 Handel's Messiah performed for the first time in Dublin
Scratch blue mug, c.1740-64
1749 'Soft paste' factory founded in Bristol making Meissen type figures.
Around this time manufacturers worked with one type of glaze while experiments were in progress to match or 'frit' different glazes to different clay bodies around the 1740's Enoch Booth made a fine glaze from lead powder, flint and clay which gave a good even coat when biscuit ware was dipped into it.
Elers, Thomas Astbury, Thomas Whieldon and Enoch Booth experimented with coloured glazes. Whieldon Ware is well known for its 'tortoiseshell ' glazes. Many makers imitated this and the name 'Whieldon' is now a generic name describing a 'style' that was developed by Thomas Whieldon.

Plate by Thomas Whieldon, c.1750
The industrial revolution starting around the 1760's grew from the foundations that had been laid earlier in the century. Industrialisation with new methods of powering machinery and the manufacturing of goods was enabled by improvements in the road networks between towns and cities, the building of canals and later the railway enabled greater mobility, improved trade, larger markets and greater choice.

Agate ware:
In the 1680's John Dwight of Fulham had used different clays mixed together to imitate agate. Thomas Whieldon had also made agate ware handles for knives sometime before 1740. By the mid 1700's aggateware was also used with salt-glaze to make teapots and figures. The red and white clays could be carefully constructed and cut to give very fine patterns.

Agateware teapot, c.1745

1754 Opening of Sankey Brook Birth of Engineer Thomas Telford. 1750: New transfer on ceramics was being developed by a firm called Sadler and Green, allowing copper plate printing to be used on china and earthenware. This firm was later to supply Wedgwood.

1754: Thomas Weildon went into partnership with Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood was to develop a fine green glaze.

1759: Josiah Wedgwood started on his won. He began making Cream coloured earthenware and was to use the green glaze he had developed on the cauliflower and more exotic pineapple ware.
1762 Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Manchester opened
1764 James Hargreaves develops the Spinning Jenny 1764: Josiah Wedgwood's pottery moves to Brick House Pot Bank in Burslem.

1765: J. Wedgwood made a tea service for Queen Charlotte. This cream coloured earthenware became known as 'Queensware'. Cream coloured earthenware was also made in Leeds possibly as early as this but had become lighter in appearance by 1775. A feature of the early ware is the double twisted flat handle.
1768 Voyage of Captain Cooke on the Endeavour. A scientific expedition to the Pacific Ocean. 1769: The opening of Etruria factory. The first factory to produce cream coloured earthenware on a commercial scale.

1770: By now manufacture of salt glazed stoneware and delft almost ceased, being replaced with the Cram-coloured earthenware.
1773 Stock Exchange founded The Literary club founded by Joshua Reynolds. Samuel Johnson published the English Dictionary.    
1777 The Trent Mersey Canal completed.
Wedgwood Queensware chestnut basket, c.1773
1783 James Watt develops rotary steam engine.

George IV as Prince of Wales first visit to village of Brighthelmstone, when it was becoming a fashionable resort fro the new pastime of sea-bathing known now as Brighton.
1780: Thomas Whiedon retired. Josiah Wedgwood introduces a new white body called 'Pearlware'. George Stubbs painted the Wedgwood family in the grounds of Etruria Hall.
1789 Thames and Severn canal completed.
Teapot, Leeds, c.1780
1790   Establishment of the Herculaneum pottery.  
1795   Josiah Wedgwood died.