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Science and Pottery1

Nature volume 85, pages 411412 (26 January 1911) | Download Citation



THE English Ceramic Society, founded about ten years ago, had its origin in a belated attempt, made by a few enlightened manufacturers, to introduce scientific method into the conduct of one of our most important industries. There is a proverbial connection between the potter and his thumb, and in no other leading manufacture in this country is the rule of thumb so dominant or so repressive as it is in that of pottery. The ceramic art as practised in England is for the most part empirical, and is therefore highly conservative; changes are few and progress is correspondingly slow. At the same time, in certain respects, the industry has reached a high degree of mechanical perfection. English china is a product sui generis, and its merits are widely recognised, even by those who decline to regard it as a variety of porcelain. In the manufacture of the highest qualities of earthenware no nation has hitherto surpassed us. But signs are not wanting that our supremacy is challenged, and each succeeding decade sees the struggle becoming more and more acute. The industry is, in fact, between the upper and the nether millstones of conflicting tariff systems. Industrial conditions in the Potteries are, iri some respects, without parallel in any other manufacturing district. In no other staple trade of like magnitude is to be found so numerous a class of small manufacturers—persons of little or no capital and employing few hands—some of them no more than the members of their own families. These are for the most part ignorant of anything beyond the ordinary technique of their art. Even in the case of larger concerns, it was, until of late years, rare to meet with any evidence of practical recognition of the scientific principles underlying the industry. Such a condition of things cannot possibly tend to development in the art itself, or to improvement in the welfare of the workers engaged in it.

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