This vase was made in 1887 by Charles H Brannam and decorated by William L Baron. They worked at the Litchdon Pottery in Barnstaple, North Devon.
The Litchdon Pottery was established by Charles’ father, Thomas, in 1847. Charles was born in 1855 and worked at the pottery from the age of 12. His father provided some training, although Charles later studied at the Literary and Scientific Institute, receiving the Queen’s Prize for Drawing in 1870, and also attended the Barnstaple School of Art. Charles was drawn to ceramics, educating himself in their theory and practice.
Under Thomas, the output of Litchdon consisted of mostly ‘peasant’ pottery. This included items such as pitchers and pans, which featured only simplistic decoration. Charles, having studied the ceramics housed in London’s museums, persuaded his father to experiment with art pottery. From 1881 he took over the business, recruiting highly skilled designers to help reinvigorate production standards. Traditional local styles continued to be favored, especially with sgraffito decoration.
Under the management of Charles, the Litchdon Pottery enjoyed rising success. Charles expanded production into a line of art wares which at first were sold through Howell & James, London. Liberty's also commissioned an exclusive range from the pottery.
Considerable publicity was brought to the pottery in 1885, when an order was received from Queen Victoria. This was followed by patronage from other members of the Royal family and crowned heads for Europe. Charles was now able to register the name ‘Royal Barum Ware’ for his art pottery, ‘Barum’ being the Roman name for Barnstaple. A London outlet was established and wares continued to be produced well into the twentieth century.
By the 1890s, Charles decorative repertoire included sgraffito, trailed slip (liquid clay), carved and applied ornament and deep-coloured glazes, especially blue and green. Art pottery design of this period was often a synthesis of Japanese, Persian and Classical motifs.
The earthenware body of this vase features sgraffito decoration On the body, different species of fish are depicted. On the long, cylindrical neck we see birds perched on flowers. Patterned bordered inspired by Islamic designs frame the different sections of the vase.
North Devon ceramics are notable for their use of sgraffito decoration. Meaning ‘to scratch’ in Italian, this process involved carving into an outer layer of coloured slip to reveal the clay body beneath. In this way, a design could be incised onto the surface of the ceramic. On this vase a pale blue glaze was then added on top. The maker’s mark and pot number, ‘C H Brannam / Barum 1887 WB 357’, were also incised into the base of the pot.
Eight pairs of vases like this one were donated to RAMM in the Kent Kingdon bequest of 1892. Each vase is decorated in a slightly different combination of birds, fish and plants. Although Baron decorated this vase, others were decorated by James Dewdney who also worked at Litchdon.
This object is not on display.