Meet the British craftsmen creating keepsakes to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
My face froze in terror as I applied the gold rim to a bone china cup destined to be part of the mountain of royal Platinum Jubilee merchandise.
Craftsmanship has never been my strong point and the experts who perform gilding have five years of training… I took an intensive five-minute course.
And this paint costs £2,500 a pot.
Make no mistake, this was contact with a potential disaster – a very costly disaster, at that.
This workshop in the heart of Staffordshire pottery is one of the epicenters of ceramic activity ahead of the Jubilee celebrations.
Cups, plates and tumblers with an English floral pattern are created to commemorate the historic event.
Paul David Drabble)
By the time of Jubilee next month, more than 1,000 of these pieces will have been ordered or sent to all corners of the globe. Even though my efforts probably won’t be among them…
Dave Lockett, my tutor for the day and specialist in bone china printing and decorating at his studio, Edwards & Lockett, looks understandably nervous but does his best to reassure me.
“It is very, very easy – and expensive to mess it up! You are doing well.”
Edwards and Lockett is one of two workshops commissioned by Simon Willis, owner of Goviers, the royal commemorative retail company founded in 1904, to produce a range for the platinum jubilee.
And the demand is strong.
“The stamp made in Britain is very important for collectors,” says Simon.
Earlier I looked at mugs created from clay with cotton care at AW Ceramics.
I checked out the deburring process – where potter Chris Collins removes and smooths rough edges before the mug is fired in the kiln and glazed again before being sent to Dave’s workshop.
There, each color of Goviers’ bespoke jubilee design is individually applied to the transfer sheet, which is then applied by hand to the mug.
It’s painstaking work, but it’s worth it to create something that will stand the test of time – with proper care, these mugs will last over 100 years.
The most popular item in Goviers Jubilee range is the two-handled Loving cup, which I was commissioned to decorate.
Paul David Drabble)
After seeing it being created – from glazing at the pottery studio to transfer printing and gilding and at Dave’s workshop – the level of skill at each level is almost mesmerizing.
The end result is so delicate that when held up to the light, the piece is almost translucent.
Simon says: “Most of the big UK manufacturers are gone, so it’s important events like this when small artisan workshops like Edwards and Lockett and AW Ceramics come into their own.
It’s definitely show time for Dave, who co-owns his workshop with his 68-year-old brother Graham. The company was founded by their father, Les, in 1946.
Dave, 58, says: “Our father was a paratrooper in World War II and fought in the Battle of Arnhem.
“He took great pride in serving Queen and country, and he continued to do so – producing commemorative pottery for all royal occasions.
“I was cleaning up some old papers the other day and came across a letter dated 1977 signed by the Queen’s Esquire thanking my father for a plate he made for the Silver Jubilee and sent to the Queen I had a lump in my throat reading the letter.
“Our father died in 2009. Our mother died last year – she was the same age as the Queen. But she lived to see the Diamond Jubilee, which was very special to her.
Since taking over the business, Dave’s proudest professional moment came when he received an order from Wedgwood to create a set of 12 teacups and saucers for the Queen Mother.
Paul David Drabble)
Dave recalled: ‘It was so exciting for all of us here to know that the Queen Mother and the Royal Family would be drinking from a cup and saucer that we had all helped create.
“I’ll never forget when the courier came to get the tea set and saw the address. ” You laugh ? ” he said. “I’m going to Buckingham Palace?” »
“I told him, ‘yes, it’s true, don’t worry, they’ll let you in.’
“It would be nice to think that something we produced might end up in the Queen’s hands.”
Producing ceramics fit for a queen is no cup game, as I discovered at Tony Johnson’s pottery studio.
Tony, 76, started the business after being made redundant from his job at Royal Doulton. He and his son Alex, 31, make the cups and mugs which are then sent to Dave for decoration.
Tony, with 60 years’ experience, says: “Like most people in pottery, I followed my family into the profession – my father Victor worked as a figurine polisher at Royal Doulton, and I’m glad my son, Alex, decided to work with me after finishing college.
While at the Royal Crown Derby, Tony was commissioned by the Queen to create a dinner service as a wedding gift for Princess Anne and Mark Phillips. The princess visited the factory to see the set being made. And Tony showed her around.
He says: “She was wonderful, very interested and asked a lot of questions. It was a proud moment, but for me making cups for the Goviers Jubilee range is even more special as this is the first time my small company has been commissioned to do something like this.
“It may not be used by the Queen, but it takes immense pride to know that I am producing something that people will cherish for years to come.”
The Loving cup costs £65 as part of a limited edition of 950 – single-handled cups cost £45 – and Simon hopes this range will eventually find its way into the royal household.
He says: “Royals love fine china and memorials. They’re all incredibly skilled and passionate collectors, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
The Goviers Jubilee range also includes a Queen Elizabeth character jug - complete with a corgi.
Paul David Drabble)
“Corgis, of course, are the symbol of the Queen,” says Simon, “and the character jugs might look quite dated, but they still sell really well. Collectors love finding rare and unusual pieces.
Although Simon would love to see his range on display at Buckingham Palace, his regular customers are the most popular, whether they live in stately homes or nursing homes.
One of the clients had Goviers wraps delivered to her nursing home every week during Covid, but they all had to be put in storage for a few days for her safety before using them.
“She told us she was like a child at Christmas waiting to open her presents,” he says. “They brought him a lot of joy. Most of our customers buy for themselves.
“As people get older, they become more nostalgic; with each jubilee, the next makes more sense. This jubilee is extraordinary to experience.
“These mugs will be here long after our children and even our grandchildren, each piece will tell its own story for generations to come.”