The vogue for Victoriana

By Elspeth Pridham
May 21, 2020

Are the decorative crafts of the nineteenth century attracting a new fanbase?

The popularity of television shows – The Victorian House of Arts & Crafts, The Great Pottery Throw Down and The Repair Shop – certainly illustrate that there is a thirst for knowledge around craft and the traditional making of objects for the home.

Ben Johnson, a director at London-based design firm, Albion Nord, is part of a new generation of antiques lovers. He says, “Antiques make up part of the puzzle. There is something inherently beautiful about the character and personality they can bring to a space. It’s impossible to replicate with new furniture the charm of an object which has lived, aged and weathered. Antiques work in contemporary and classical settings, the right piece is timeless in that regard. I personally love the combination and balance of antique, modern and contemporary pieces together. If this is done well it creates a sense that the interior has evolved over time, there is a warmth and interest to that.”

The best seller
Owen Pacey, fireplace restoration and reproduction specialist, has reported that his best-selling era is that of the Victorians. Pacey is the founder of Renaissance London, a longstanding seller of antiques and reproduction pieces in Shoreditch, popular amongst celebrity clientele including Mick Jagger, Orlando Bloom, Gilbert & George and Kate Winslet.

Pacey says that the most sought-after fireplaces are Victorian in style, highly decorative and with unique design accents such as cast-iron inserts or tiled borders. One of the rarer Victorian fireplaces in his current offering at Renaissance London is a Carrara marble design with Victorian Corbels and Mintons fireplace tiles. Mintons was the leading tile manufacturer of the nineteenth century, based in Stoke on Trent, the home of British ceramicware. These tiles, often found in Willow Pattern, were decorated using the now rare art of tissue transfer printing.

The last pottery
Burleigh Pottery uses tissue transfer printing for its distinctive range. In fact, it is now the last pottery in the world to practice this manufacturing method for earthenware. Through collaborations with Ralph Lauren, Soho House, The Ned and Harrods, the company has proven its relevance to contemporary design. However, its core blue and white ranges continue to dominate sales, with consumers favouring the more traditional colourways and patterns.

Tissue transfer printing is a Victorian method of decorating ceramicware using ink and tissue paper. A copper roller is engraved with a rich, detailed design (often Willow Pattern or floral), which is covered with ink. The roller is then used to print the design onto tissue paper (which is actually French cigarette paper). In turn, the inky tissue paper is applied to the raw ceramicware and brushed on by the decorators. Because each stage of the process is hand-crafted, each tile or piece of pottery is unique.

The popularity of this Victorian style of ceramicware is seen in Burleigh’s recent report of a 123% increase in sales of charger plates. It seems that not only are people investing in traditional British craft, but they are dining in a more traditional way too.