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Lathers at work

  • Object:

    Design

  • Place of origin:

    Lambeth (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1893 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rowe, William (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the Friends of the V&A

  • Museum number:

    E.921-2002

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case C, shelf 117

This is the sixth drawing from a series of twelve watercolours which show the manufacturing processes of Doulton's Lambeth pottery works, made by William Rowe about 1893. In this drawing, several workers are refining the shape of pottery either by hand or with the assistance of equipment. In the centre of the drawing, a man is working with a lathe turning and shaping the pottery. Above the drawing, the painter indicated, in pencil, that the process represented was that of 'lathers at work', and in this process, a female worker appears for the first time. Unlike male workers doing skilled or heavy work, the female workers' role in a pottery was to assist male potters or to paint and decorate earthenware. On the back of paper, there are some pencil sketches showing wheels.

This drawing, along with other drawings in the series, provide a unique insight into the workings of the Lambeth factory. They not only depict processes from digging, grinding and purifying clay, to modelling, decorating, glazing and firing the finished piece, but also include portraits of Doulton's most important and influential designers and craftsmen, such as the Barlow sisters and Mark Marshall.

The set of drawings remained in the archives of the factory for many years until the dispersal of the Doulton material, when they were bought by the collectors of art pottery, Allen Harriman and Edward Judd. The designs seem not to have been executed in ceramic form as panels or a frieze as intended. However, it is recorded that a set of full-scale drawings was made and displayed at the Chicago exhibition in 1893 and were later purchased by Northwestern University Guild.

Physical description

This is the sixth drawing from a series of twelve watercolours which show the processes of Doulton's Lambeth pottery works by William Rowe circa 1893. In this drawing, several workers are refining the shape of pottery either by hand or with the assistance of equipment. In the central of the drawing, a man is working with a lathe turning and shaping the pottery. Above the drawing, the painter indicated, in pencil, that the process represented was that of 'lathers at work'. On the back of paper, there are some pencil sketches showing wheels.

Place of Origin

Lambeth (made)

Date

ca. 1893 (made)

Artist/maker

Rowe, William (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Lathers at work.'
In pencil at the top side of paper

'6'
In pencil at the bottom right side of paper. This indicates that the watercolour is no.6 in the series of 12 watercolours that illustrate the manufacturing processes of Doulton's Lambeth pottery works.

Dimensions

Height: 10.5 cm drawing, Width: 20 cm drawing, Height: 28.1 cm sheet, Width: 38.2 cm sheet

Object history note

This drawing, along with other drawings in the set, remained in the archives of Doulton's Lambeth factory for many years until the dispersal of the Doulton material, when they were bought by the distinguished collectors of art pottery, Allen Harriman and Edward Judd. The designs seem not to have been executed in ceramic form as panels or a frieze as intended. However, it is recorded that a set of full-scale drawings was made and displayed at the Chicago exhibition in 1893 and were later purchased by Northwestern University Guild.

Historical significance: This remarkable series provides a unique insight into the workings of the Lambeth factory. There is almost no other visual documentation from this time.

In the manufacturing process depicted, entitled 'Lathers at work', a woman worker appears for the first time. Unlike male workers doing skilled or heavy work, the female workers' role in a pottery was to assist male potters or to paint and decorate earthenware.

Historical context note

Doulton was one of the greatest English potteries founded in the 19th century. It encouraged workers, men and women, to sign their work and give the objects more of an individual and less of a factory feel. These watercolours by William Rowe appear to include portraits of Doulton's most important and influential designers and craftsmen, such as the Barlow sisters and Mark Marshall. William Rowe himself also occasionally worked at Lambeth, and it is possible that one of these drawings might include his own portrait. The Lambeth pottery works depicted in these drawings show that factory life has shifted from 'dark satanic mill' horrors to light and airy atmosphere. Part of Doulton's Lambeth factory still survives in Lambeth on Black Prince Road.

Descriptive line

A watercolour drawing for Doulton's Lambeth pottery works by William Rowe circa 1893.

Materials

Pencil; Watercolour; Paper

Techniques

Drawing techniques; Painting techniques

Subjects depicted

Lathes; Art pottery

Categories

Drawings; Earthenware; Ceramics

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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