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Excellent Pair of Lustre Tiles

 

 

  • Style/technique: Arts & crafts lustre
  • Dimensions: 12" x 6" (two tiles)
  • Manufacturer: J C Edwards
  • Date: circa 1890
  • Condition: Excellent
  • Price: £440 (approx $629)
  • Ref: 03400

 

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They look pretty good in the pictures, in the flesh these are totally amazing tiles. These are quadruple lustre tiles, four different stains used for outline painting and fill colouring, the firing has caught the lustre well when caught in the light vivid iridescent blues and yellows can be seen, perhaps suggesting silver stain was used. There is a little 'smokiness' to the background glaze caused by the same effect as the lustre and is not uncommon. They are well designed for use as running design both horizontally and vertically and are reminescent of the style of Lewis F Day who is reported to have worked for Edwards (Austwick p.98) though Austwick also comments that L A Shuffrey designed lustre tiles for Edwards in imitation of William de Morgan's work. Imitation of de Morgan may be moot as he was more of an imitator himself, unashamedly so for along with Morris he sought out medieval designs to reproduce.

Using one stain was difficult enough and still is nowadays despite all the advances in glaze and kiln technologies. The tiles are free handpainted, the stains being painted on to the glaze. The decorated tile is heated in the kiln until the glaze begins to melt, then the stains migrate a little way in to the glaze but must remain near the surface for the reducing agent to release the metal to create the lustre. As the decoration is on or very close to the surface lustre tiles are subject to surface wear, most manufacturers advised that lustre tiles (and some other unusual glazing technique tiles) were not used in hearths etc. These are rare and exceptional examples of the ceramic art. See if you can find a ceramic artist to make the same now or even as good an example by de Morgan!

See Barnard page 65, plate 54, top left tile, for a similar floral tile. It is unattributed however alongside is a well known Lewis Day/Maw lustre tile attributed to Edwards so maybe the publisher mixed them up.

Making lustre tiles was a very expensive process so it is no wonder such tiles are rare. An interesting comparison of prices can be gained from a Maw & Co price list dating from the 1890s.

  • Plain coloured tiles 4 - 4.5 each
  • Relief tiles 6.5 - 7 each
  • Walter Crane designs 6.5 each
  • Lustre tiles 56 each

The unit of currency in 1890 is pennies, old pennies - 240 to the pound!

The price reflected the difficulty of manufacture and it is fascinating to see how times have changed. Walter Crane designs now achieve similar prices to lustres but when they were made the lustres were 850% more expensive. Relief tiles were then only one and a half times the cost of plain tiles, now are two to twenty times the cost. Surprisingly very few lustre tiles were made in the centre of the ceramic industry, Stoke on Trent. Mintons China Works made a few but most were made in the London art potteries and west of Stoke in Jackfield (Ironbridge Gorge) by Maw & Co and Craven Dunnill.

Versos have the marks for J C Edwards of Ruabon, Wales yet we are not absolutely convinced that Edwards made these tiles, we think it well possible Maw & Co made them. Maws were one of the greatest tile makers, for some periods in their history probably the greatest, in terms of quality, range and volume. They made tiles for other companies and many tiles we have seen attributed to/marked as J C Edwards are very similar to the works of Maw & Co indeed what one may call ordinary tiles from Edwards are virtually unheard of and it is strange that they apparently produced solely excellent tiles. They were a major manufacturer of plumbing, drainage and sanitary wares so tile making although related would be not a core business. Doulton & Co were similarly drain and sanitary ware manufacturers who apparently did not make any tiles but had relationships with a variety of tile manufacturers. They did of course decorate bought in tiles and went on to become art potters then further one of the mainstay pottery companies of the 20thC. Maws put their own name on relatively few of their wares, it is only in recent years that it has been possible to positively attribute many tiles to them.

  

The condition of these is excellent, there are some light scratches and light wear to the painting but not too detracting. The edges are great with no chips of any significance, there are no cracks. The marks are mostly on the left (or bottom) tile, the right tile is very fine, it was tempting to split the two up so as to be able to offer the very fine tile with the more sought after floral decoration. The scratches could very easily be touched in with a little colour and almost disappear, if we sold more direct rather than mail order we would do so ourselves for in hand it is easy to show any work but as we sell mail order we have to stick to the no restorations policy.





The image is full size at 72 dpi (about 430 pixels wide) in maximum quality JPEG format. A larger 120 dpi image also in maximum quality JPEG format can be forwarded by email if required.

The image is a little oversize rather than cropped close to the edges so that the edges can easily be seen and any chips etc can be quickly spotted. Other marks described are usually not visible at all when the tile is viewed straight as one normally sees it and can only be seen with a critical eye when the tile is tilted to catch imperfections in reflected light. For more details of how we describe marks see Condition.

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