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June 27, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2019 issue
Portmeirion Pottery – A success story
The brand’s re-introduction to our Island.
Words Patrick Delia
Portmeirion Pottery began in 1960 when pottery designer Susan Williams-Ellis, daughter of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who had created the Italian style Portmeirion Village in North Wales and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis, took over a small pottery-decorating company in Stoke-on-Trent.
Susan Williams-Ellis had been working with A.E.Gray for some years, commissioning designs to sell at the gift shop in Portmeirion Village, the items bearing the backstamp ‘Gray’s Pottery Portmeirionware’, before taking it over.
In 1961, the couple purchased a second pottery company, Kikrhams Ltd, that had the capacity to manufacture pottery and not only decorate it. These two businesses were combined and Portmeirion Potteries Ltd was born.
Her early Portmeirion designs included Malachite, 1960, Moss Agate, 1961, and Talisman in 1962. In 1963, she created the then popular design Totem, an abstract pattern based on primitive forms coupled with a cylindrical shape. Then came Magic City, 1966 and Magic Garde, in 1970.
Arguably Portmeirion’s most recognised design is the Botanic Garden range, the ever successful pattern decorated with a great variety of floral illustrations adapted from Thomas Green’s Universal or Botanical, Medical and Agricultural Dictionary from 1817. This famous pattern was launched in 1972, and with new designs added periodically, is still made today, the most successful ceramics series of botanical subjects.
For 45 years Botanic Garden has been a serene and comforting presence amidst the busyness of our lives. Each and every ceramic piece is made with care, attention and love, passing through 22 pairs of hands before being ready for a home.
This pottery was launched in Malta by John G.Cassar for many years and I still remember it on display at Leda, on Tower Road Sliema. As I young boy I visited the Sliema toy shops regularly but because my family were very much involved in the sale of tableware in Valletta it was obvious that I would stop to spy on the competition. Another outlet round the corner on Cathedral Street was Balbi who sold Rosenthal. Portmeirion seems to have been sold from a shop in Naxxar and if my memory does not fail me the name was Parisio.
Gio.Batta Delia became involved with Portmeirion when a Williams-Ellis family member was on holiday in Malta and was quite surprised that their pottery was not sold in our shop together with all the other famous brands we represented here. Through a very amicable agreement with John G.Cassar, who by that time were concentrating on other business, we took over the Portmeirion representation in Malta. We did this rather successfully till 2009 when we diversified our main business to Tommy Hilfiger fashion wear.
Over the last two years we have reignited our Chinaware business selling mostly through Facebook but we will soon be announcing a retailer or two who will have a lovely selection of Portmeirion Brands products for sale.
Going back to the Group itself, in 2009, Portmeirion Potteries Ltd purchased the Royal Worcester & Spode brands, after they had been placed into administration, like many other top brands in the industry hailing from Stoke-on-Trent.
This year apart from expanding the Botanic Garden range a number of new introductions have made the selection of dinnerware and tea ware that much more exciting. Notably the addition of the Sara Miller range has great potential especially with Tahiti and Chelsea.
The Group today comprises of Portmeirion, Spode, Royal Worcester, Pimpernel and Wax Lyrical.
For more information, contact us by going to the Facebook page Gio. Batta Delia 1901.