Sorting and view mode

Skills of the Nation - The Miner - 1980

Skills of the Nation - The Miner
    Skills of the Nation - The Miner

The ‘Skills of the Nation’ series of figures, by Colin Melbourne, were produced in Black Basalt and designed in the 1980s. The three subjects were - ‘The Potter’, ‘The Miner’ and ‘The Wheelwright’.

The ‘Skills of the Nation’ series of figures, by Colin Melbourne, were produced in Black Basalt and designed in the 1980s. The three subjects were - ‘The Potter’, ‘The Miner’ and ‘The Wheelwright’. The last time that the three figures appeared in the British Retail Price Listings was in 1988 – at this time the price (including VAT) was £160.00 for ‘The Potter’, and £199.00 for the subjects ‘The Miner’ and ‘The Wheelwright. All were available in a limited edition of 1,000, and were boxed, as well as being individually numbered with a special gold printed backstamp. Each box was also accompanied by a sealed certificate and colour illustrated descriptive leaflet.

  • Type of object: Portraits and figures/figurine
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD
    by Colin Melbourne
    in a Limited Edition of 1000
    of ETRURIA &
    [Printed in gold]
  • Year produced: 1980
  • Body: Black Basalt
  • Glaze: clear glaze
  • Material: ceramic, metal
  • Decoration: moulded
  • Accession number: 9673
  • Dimensions: 235 mm (height), 185 mm (width), 146 mm (depth)

Other images

Related people

  • Colin Melbourne Designer

    Colin Melbourne - Designer (1928 - 2009)

    Stoke-born sculptor Colin Melbourne trained at the Burslem School of Art before gaining employment as an assistant modeller at Wedgwood. He then won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and after graduating worked with Wade, Beswick and the Marquess of Queensbury. In the 1960s he became a teacher at Stoke-on-Trent College of Art, and after it became part of North Staffordshire Polytechnic, now Staffordshire University, he was made head of the Faculty of Art and Design. Colin was the sculptor of many art works within the city which successfully captured the spirit of the Potteries and its people. He died at home in August 2009 aged 80.


  • Black Basalt

    Black Basalt

    A fine-grained black stoneware body, composed of ball clay, calcined ochre and manganese oxide. Josiah Wedgwood developed black basalt in 1768 to replace the earlier ‘black Egyptian’ ware produced in Staffordshire in the mid-eighteenth century. 


    Basalt was described by Josiah Wedgwood as ‘A fine black Porcelain, having nearly the same properties as the Basaltes i.e., the mineral rock', resisting the Attack of Acids; being a Touch-stone to Copper, Silver and Gold, and equal in Hardness to Agate or Porphyry'. It was the result of his experiments to perfect fine-grained stoneware suitable for the production of ornamental pieces, one that would complement the neo-classical styles then coming into vogue. It is probable that Wedgwood was experimenting with a basalt body in September 1767. He wrote to Bentley, ‘I am still going on with my tryals, & want much to shew you some of them'. Certainly within 12 months Basalt was generally available. From 1773 Wedgwood's plain-black body became universally known as ‘basaltes'. Both ornamental and useful wares were produced in this versatile body and it was used to make virtually anything the public required. Wedgwood placed great confidence in his material, predicting that ‘Black is Sterling and will last for ever'.

    Black clay was derived from ‘Carr', an oxide of iron suspended in the water that had flowed through coal seams and mines. This was drained and dried and then sold by the cartload to potters for use in the production of basalt pottery. Wedgwood made no secret of his recipe for Basalt, which he recorded on page 236 of ‘Common Place Book I. The entry is dated 1777, and reads:

    ‘Our Black Basalt Body. 80 of ball clay sifted 80 of Carr [ochre] calcined & ground 9 of manganese. The above is one Blending.'

    When these ingredients were fired together at a high temperature they vitrified into a fine-textured black body. The distinctive colour of Wedgwood's basalt, which has a deep purplish-black hue, is due to the high proportion of manganese included in the formula.