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Scene-stealing ceramics

Tradition and avant-garde design fire a V&A collection

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Scene-stealing ceramics

February 18 2013
Nicole Swengley

A new collection of eye-catching ceramic designs, resulting from a collaboration between Emily Johnson and five other highly creative artists and designers, is a reason to stampede the V&A before May.  

Johnson is a fifth-generation descendant of the family that founded Johnson Brothers, the historic Stoke-on-Trent pottery. While Johnson Brothers is now part of the Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton group, Emily and her father Christopher set up the company 1882 Ltd just under two years ago to develop and produce innovative ceramic designs – from vases to lighting – using local Staffordshire manufacturers.

The fine bone china in this new series is emblematic of their skill in fusing traditional British craftsmanship with a contemporary aesthetic. Take designer Alan Hughes’ Gashu bowl, an elegant demi-sphere held in position by a blackened wood stay (first picture, £240; without stay, £160). Or the majestic Doodletron, a magnificent vase by Nicholas Hughes (second picture, £600; limited edition of 50) on which quill-and-ink drawings telling whimsical stories are etched into the mould and cast on the vessel.

Timeless materials are united with modern processes in a series of china cups (from £50 for a pair) designed by Fort Standard, a Brooklyn-based design studio founded in 2011 by Gregory Buntain and Ian Collings. Meanwhile, street artist Mr Brainwash has applied his signature style of eye-catching social commentary to Creation, a monochrome 10in plate (£39), and colourful fine bone china Fragile Hearts plates (third picture, from £37), mugs (£36) and bowls (£38) – where decorative artwork fuses with practical functionalism.

Scene stealing are the prototypes of Philippe Malouin’s Dunes tableware. These hand-crafted plates and bowls are slip-cast from plaster models and produced using the analogue 3D printing machine on display in the V&A Shop. Some will be available for purchase from 1882 Ltd later in the year, but for now their avant-garde production is something simply to marvel at.