History of the Teapot Part Two: Teapots in the 20th Century

posted by Karen Hood
Thursday, July 23, 2009

by Vince McDonald
Source: About.com

During the middle of the 19th Century, afternoon tea drinking had become a national institution and many more weird and wonderful teapots had been cast into the shapes of birds, animals, fish, etc. Led by the Staffordshire firms of George Jones and Minton, today these are extremely rare and very desirable, collectable teapots. As a result of the great variety of teapots produced, there became a richness of imagination, inventiveness, and humour, unparalleled in any other collectors’ art. In late Victorian times novelty teapots, adapted to contemporary tastes, were sold by the thousands and established their own classic themes of Dickens characters and endearing animals.

As we entered the 20th Century, all manner of these teapots were being produced to commemorate Silver Jubilees, Coronations, and special events. The First World War in 1914 curtailed both production and interest in these whimsical teapots and it was not until the 1920’s that somewhere near normal production resumed and once again, the novelty collectable teapot was back in business. During the 1920’s and 1930’s a new breed of designer potters in the shape of Clarice Cliff and Suzie Cooper and the Art Deco movement produced a new range of novelty teapots for people to collect. Teapots were sold at fairs and markets, in souvenir shops or given as presents; they were often a reminder of a happy day on holiday, or an impulse buy, so in general they were quite cheap and did not claim a lot of artistic merit. Teapots from this era bring extremely big money in today’s collectable world, especially the Clarice Cliff ones, many reaching up to £12,000.

Before the Second World War in 1939, the firm of James Sadler & Sons of Stoke-on-Trent, England produced many very collectable novelty teapots in the shape of cars, aeroplanes, fighting tanks, etc. These today have also become very collectable but do not realise the same values as, say, the Clarice Cliff ones. Once again, a World War curtailed production and it was not until the 1950s that the novelty teapot re-emerged to be made in any sort of collectable numbers. Cottages, animals, and all variety of seaside novelties were produced to cater for the spare cash that was now being generated.

During the 1970’s a new breed of potters were leaving college and were eager to put new ideas into practice and names such as Richard Parrington, Roger Michell, etc., were making their mark in the teapot world. Their small cottage companies were churning out novelty teapots in small edition sizes; each design was swiftly followed by a new one and that is why they have become very collectable today, due to the very small numbers produced. The firm of Fitz & Floyd made big inroads into the teapot world in the United States of America, producing many different designs, but usually in a high volume output, making them not quite as desirable as the rarer pieces.

Novelty teapots are a comparatively new field for collectors, although examples have been included in collections of ceramics for many years – there are some famous ones in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, England. Whilst the variety of teapots has grown, the survivors of the previous generations have dwindled, adding the spice of rarity to collecting.

Points to look out for when collecting novelty teapots are a good design coupled with a very low factory output, as this creates the scenario of not enough to go round. Teapots like this will almost certainly be amongst the most desirable ones. Someone once said – and it was probably me – that all teapots are collectable, BUT some more than others.

In England there are many, many collectors fairs every day, which is fine in a small country such as ours, but the whole concept of collecting is now changing due to the World Wide Web. Information is now freely passed from country to country and collectors are not in the dark any more. During the last six or seven years the major auction site – www.ebay.com – has brought collecting to even the most inaccessible parts of the world and teapots are being traded easily from one country to another. It was, until recently, unheard of to find American designed teapots in England but I know that some of the Sigma teapots are much sought after, as they are in the States, and many of the English teapots have found their way to America due to the World Wide Web’s influence. Our teapot collectors site www.totallyteapots.com has been gaining good ground and recognition and for any budding new collectors, we would welcome your involvement.

For a new collector just starting, it would be wise to log onto eBay’s auction site and just keep your eye on things for a few weeks to get a feel for what is happening and what is being paid for certain items. Usually, the majority of the world’s collectors will know what’s what and if a new collector follows their guidance, they won’t go far wrong.

Shop now for teapots at Karen’s Collector’s Cottage.



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