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Unique Ware vase in Black Basalt by Norman Wilson - c.1960s

Black Basalt, Unique Ware vase by Norman Wilson, © Wedgwood Museum
    Black Basalt, Unique Ware vase by Norman Wilson
    © Wedgwood Museum

The exterior of this vase has been decorated with a combination of Norman Wilson’s experimental glazes, which has resulted in a mottled multi-tonal effect. The interior of the vase is glazed in black. This is an example of Norman Wilson’s ‘Unique Wares’, which he worked on at intervals from 1928 to 1963.

The exterior of this vase has been decorated with a combination of Norman Wilson’s experimental glazes, which has resulted in a mottled multi-tonal effect. The interior of the vase is glazed in black. This is an example of Norman Wilson’s ‘Unique Wares’, which he worked on at intervals from 1928 to 1963. Wilson experimented with glazes and decoration applied to pre-made shapes. Many of these shapes were designed by Wilson and based on Chinese or Korean models with a majority of them being hand-thrown, although his experimental glazes were also applied to other Wedgwood shapes. Most of Wilson’s pieces were marked with his initials ‘NW’, in addition to other typical Wedgwood markings. This particular object was made C. 1960s.

  • Type of object: Ornamental ware/vase
  • Mark: WEDGWOOD NW
    [Printed]
    NW
    [Impressed]
  • Year produced: c.1960s
  • Body: Black Basalt
  • Glaze: black
  • Material: ceramic
  • Accession number: 9188
  • Dimensions: H: 225 mm, Diameter: 130 mm

Related people

  • Norman Wilson Designer

    Norman Wilson - Designer (1902 - 1985)

    Norman Wilson was born in 1902 and a master potter, designer and inventor. He was Works Manager at Etruria from 1927, Production Director from 1946 and Joint Managing Director from 1961. Norman Wilson was educated at Ellesmere College and graduated as a silver medallist from the North Staffordshire Technical College. He worked for a short period with his father who was also a china manufacturer before emigrating to Canada where he broke in polo ponies. He was recalled to the Wedgwood company by Frank Wedgwood who appointed him Works Manager at Etruria in September 1927. Norman Wilson was responsible for the introduction of the first gas-fired tunnel ovens at the factory as well as a wide range of new bodies, shapes and glazes. Mr. Wilson during the period 1930-1960 experimented and produced a wide range of Ornamental items such as vases and bowls in a range of ceramic bodies, and exhibiting a wide variety of glazes. He died in 1985. His son, Andrew Norman Wilson (best known as A.N.Wilson), born in 1950, is a writer, newspaper columnist and broadcaster.

Glossary

  • 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.