If you fail to implement your New Year resolutions during January you get an opportunity to re-boot them in early February when the Chinese New Year comes around. I tried it myself. Having resolved to get to get to grips with Instagram, and conscious that my 21 followers might be eager to see my next post (the last was in 2014 when, in a rush of enthusiasm, I opened an account and tried it out), I took a snap of the street decorations celebrating the Year of the Monkey and put it out there. It got three likes. To be honest, it wasn't a great photo: the composition was poor and the lighting so-so; and I couldn't get the hang of the editing function. I fear my followers may lose faith unless I up my game.
My resolutions also include a list of places to visit, one of which, the Wedgwood Museum, is by happy coincidence also on a friend's list. So we made a date and, one sunny morning last week, travelled by train to Stoke-on-Trent. I took my camera/phone/portable communications device thinking there might be rich pickings for my Instagram followers. In the event, however, I became so absorbed in the history that I forgot all about them. Anyway, I reasoned, does anyone really want to see a photo of Dave and me posing awkwardly in front of a display cabinet?
|Design by Ravilious|
We found that the museum has morphed into the Wedgwood Experience. Having spent millions on re-housing the collection (following its rescue from the fire-sale which followed the collapse of the pension fund to which it had been entrusted) the new owners are keen to make their investment pay off. The Experience includes a tour of the factory, entry to the museum and opportunities to throw pots, decorate plates and take tea and/or lunch. We opted for the tour, followed by lunch and a visit to the museum (which was brief on account of our having lingered over too many glasses of Shiraz).
|Design by Paolozzi|
Our factory-tour guide was brisk and efficient and, if she was disappointed that there were only three of us, didn't show it as she pointed out the fire-exits and forbade us to take photos. Much of the manufacturing process now benefits from technology and automation but the few employees who remain are surely on their way to celebrity status. We watched in admiration as Debbie attached handles to cups, Derek applied 18 carat gold to plates and Christine painted a horse-race scene onto a £20k trophy-vase commissioned for a Canadian racecourse. I began to understand the photography ban: celebrities can be touchy about being photographed when they are not looking their best; and there is the matter of commercial sensitivity which applies to some of the commissioned works - though not, apparently, to the 19,000 piece dinner service destined for the Presidential Palace of Abu Dhabi which we were allowed to view and which is, by the way, unremarkable.
|Pamphlet from 1788|
The museum contains an overwhelming number of objects, some dating from the very beginning of Josiah Wedgwood's enterprise, but - beautiful as they are - one soon tires of china-wares. The real inspiration here is the man himself. Remarkable for his energy, insight and principles, he was an inventor, innovator and designer as well as an entrepreneur and social reformer. He supported the development of a canal system (which facilitated the shipping of his goods), but was also a member of the Lunar Society and an active proponent of the anti-slavery movement and, at the age of 38, had a leg amputated. Incidentally, his daughter married the son of Erasmus Darwin and they begat Charles Darwin. There's no way to Instagram all that so I've included my photos here.