CATEGORY   Decorative Arts, Architecture, Design

Paperback, 96 pages, 245 x 156 mm, 150 black-and-white illustrations, 1992

Cameron & Hollis ISBN 978-0-90650606-6

Alan Peat
Introduction by Terence Conran

This survey of the post-war output of W.R. Midwinter Ltd, arguably the most innovative of Brtitish tableware manufacturers in the 1950s, is the only book on Midwinter ceramics written with the cooperation of Roy Midwinter, who was responsible for transforming this Staffordshire pottery that had hitherto operated in the conventional mainstream of tableware production. Midwinter oversaw the production of innovative, modern tableware for over 30 years. He had the foresight and perspicacity to engage the services of designers such as Hugh Casson, Terence Conran and Jessie Tait who created for the Stylecraft and Fashion ranges perhaps the most iconic 1950s and 1960s designs in British tableware. Peter Scott produced designs in connection with the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge. Heavily influenced by American design, in particular the work of Eva Zeisel, Midwinter was responsible for introducing a genuinely rimless plate, dubbed ‘Quartic’ at the time, which in 1954 seemed breathtakingly modern and still impresses with its clean lines and often light-hearted surface patterns. Here were affordable, earthenware ranges that at last offered the buyer something fresh and new and were not so expensive that they were stored away in a sideboard to be brought out only on highdays and holidays. Colin Melbourne was commissioned to design a range of 22 strikingly modern-looking, stylised animal sculptures finished with black, white or fawn-coloured matt glazes, and in 1958, Midwinter became the first British company to launch patterned, break-resistant tableware – Melmex. The shapes of two ranges, Portobello and MQ2, were designed by David Queensberry in the 1960s, and in the 1970s Roy Midwinter’s daughter Eve contributed bold designs for stoneware ranges that remain in use and are collectable today. The final range for which Roy Midwinter was responsible was developed in collaboration with Robin Welch in the early 1980s, just before Midwinter retired.

Alan Peat’s meticulously researched account draws on interviews and meetings with many of those who made Midwinter a beacon of modern design, including Roy Midwinter himself before his death in 1990. A mine of information for the collector, this book is written with the enthusiasm of an avid collector whose interest led him to uncover an exciting story of a bold, design-led enterprise catering to the tastes of young, modern buyers at a time when the tableware industry in Britain was almost uniformly conservative and traditional.