Jonathan Mallinson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 231–258


  • English

Print Length

28 pages

11. 1929–31: No Ordinary Potter

  • Jonathan Mallinson (author)
The Wall Street Crash of October 1929 caused havoc in the industry as a whole. Moorcroft’s trading figures declined progressively, and he was obliged, for the first time, to sell pieces at reduced prices. It is clear from his accounts, however, that losses were attributable not simply to reduced sales, but also to an increase in unpaid invoices, and Moorcroft’s continued reluctance to put his staff on part time. Significantly, even as he began to struggle commercially, his reputation as a designer continued to grow. He responded defiantly to the bleak economic climate with a series of new designs which celebrated the beauty and vitality of the natural world: Landscape, Leaf and Berry, and Fish. His exhibits at British Industries Fairs were reviewed as if they were artworks in a gallery rather than samples on a trade stand, and whose quality was never compromised by their affordability; as one critic noted, even the most modest object was, for its owner, a ‘collector’s piece’. This was the epitome of ‘everyday art’. Moorcroft’s art is examined, too, in the context of continued discussion about the improvement of industrial design. As leading manufacturers turned either to fine artists, or to Art School trained designers, Moorcroft’s commitment to his own designs became increasingly significant. Even more outspoken in his criticism of industrial production than Leach had been in 1928, he explicitly positioned himself as a craft potter, not least in an article written in 1930 on the occasion of the bicentenary of Josiah Wedgwood’s birth. He wrote as one who has the outreach of a manufacturer, but the creative principles of an artist. Letters written to his daughter during these years provide a unique insight into his aesthetic outlook and his ambition to combat the bleakness of the times with ceramic objects, both functional and decorative, characterised by their integrity of design and humanity of craft production. And this is how his work was received. One critic identified a quality of ‘soulfulness’ in his pottery, and private correspondence from individual owners attests to its inspirational effect.


Jonathan Mallinson

Emeritus Professor of French at University of Oxford

Jonathan Mallinson is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern French Literature and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He has written extensively on prose fiction, comedy and satire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and has edited works by Molière, Voltaire and Graffigny. His interest in British art pottery and its reception dates back many years.