Charlotte Rhead: Between Art & Industry
Charlotte Rhead: Between Art & Industry

Charlotte Rhead: Between Art & Industry

An inspiring exhibition of elaborate pottery designs, created between both world wars by leading designer, Charlotte Rhead, is on show at The Bowes Museum until 7th October 2018.

Inventive and adaptable, Rhead (1885-1947) was one of a generation of ‘pottery ladies’ whose work and ideas dominated ceramic production in Staffordshire between the two world wars, but didn’t gain full credit for their achievements until the end of the 20th Century.

Ceramics production in Staffordshire in the early 20th century saw the emergence of the revolutionary, hand produced technique of ‘tube-lining’, featuring a very distinct style of decoration.  Renowned amongst collectors and historians of this period, and associated with Crown Ducal ware, the pieces drew the admiration of Royalty at the time.

Tube-lining - a highly inventive process of decorating an unglazed pot by applying slip, or liquid clay, which is squeezed through a glass nozzle to apply the finished look – was the craft in which Rhead excelled. This method dominated pottery-ware of the era, rivalling traditional Art Deco. Charlotte produced many of the designs during her time at the firm A. G. Richardson & Co. Ltd, a manufacturer of everyday earthenware, between the years 1932 and 1942.

This display, which includes some rare examples, has generated excitement in the world of ceramics. The shapes, colours, and level of detail are exquisite and required a significant degree of skill. However, the pottery was still able to be produced in quantity by Charlotte and her team and therefore represents an historic watershed between the mass production of the 20th century and the finely made hand-crafted pieces of the 18th and 19th centuries. Each item is slightly different, given the hand applied process, with variations in the glazing, enamelling and lustre of the work. Patterns were sold in alternative colours and finishes to appeal to different audiences and budgets, with some features reminiscent of Far Eastern decoration and others utilising simpler geometric blocks of colour. 

Dr Howard Coutts, Keeper of Ceramics at The Bowes Museum, said: “It would be difficult to rival her range of designs, shapes and colours in the commercial world today.”

The eye-catching collection, which is exclusive to The Bowes Museum, is on loan from Ian and Margaret Newton, who have also produced a special publication to mark the exhibition. Items include delightful floral patterns and innovative snow glaze backgrounds, similar to those on display at the 1937 British Industries Fair at Olympia.

For further information or images contact sheila.dixon@thebowesmuseum.org.uk 

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Notes to editors:

·         The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 

·         The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a Major Portfolio Museum receives support from Arts Council England.

·         The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.

·         The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 0191 301 8531, www.discoverdurham.co.uk

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The Bowes Museum is closed!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Caf� Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

Do please remember, however, that the Museum�s park and grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 � 4.00 daily, and that we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, clues can be found here.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.