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The 1949 fire at Myott Son & Co’s Alexander Pottery, Staffordshire witnessed the unfortunate destruction of valuable pattern books and records that, not only deleted a veritable bible of information and design, but was one of the contributing factors for Myott's somewhat stunted growth within the realms of Art Deco, antiques and collecting.
Myott’s popular decorative wares of the 1920’s,1930’s and 1940’s are the Myott Collectors Club raison d’etre. A good piece of Myott can sit beside some of the best Clarice Cliff and justifiably hold its head up high. It appears that Myott’s ‘art’ has been shrouded by a lack of knowledge and understanding, and veiled with anonymity. Anonymity caused, not only by the reported destruction of the pattern books, but by the invariably unsigned nature of the pieces. With an autumnal palette (hues popularised by the Art Deco movement of the 1920’s and 1930s) and bold slabs of applied collour and naïve, almost careless washes, Myott pieces are highly distinctive and unique in Twentieth Century ceramics. Once you have seen a few pieces of hand-painted Myott you will become accustomed to spotting the distinctive style of other Myott pieces with ease. This typical design genre being a direct result of the family oriented nature of the Potteries based ceramics businesses of the period, producing highly distinctive looks across the spectrum of largely family owned potteries.
Myott collecting has only recently reached the level it so rightly deserves, with the Internet playing an important role in educating collectors and dealers alike in recognising the variety and importance these wonderful works from the past have to offer. It seems incredible that a majority of books published on Art Deco (whether specifically ceramic orientated or not) do not feature or even mention the works of the Myott family and associate designers, who were by no means insignificant in the Potteries area in Staffordshire during the period between the First and Second World Wars in which the Myott Collectors Club is primarily interested. However, the last five years or so have seen a dramatic increase in the value of Myott 'art wares', especially with respect to Art Deco designs and geometric patterns. It is often heard from dealers (describing such shapes as the Torpedo vase) phrases in the line of "It wasn't that long ago I was picking these pieces up for twenty pounds!". The inflated prices and decreasing availability of Deco wares such as Clarice Cliff are a probable agent. It seems, however, that some of the rarer Myott patterns, of a more conventional or conservative design, have not been merited with proportional value compared to the more common patterns. As understanding and information increase, a comprehensive and accurate price guide can be catalogued which will give collectors and dealers alike the bigger picture of Myott.
The firm of Myott, Son & Co. Limited, a typical family run business based in the Staffordshire Potteries, England, operated in one form or another for 93 years. Established in 1898, the factory traded to 1902 at the Alexander Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, Wolfe Street (sometimes referred to as the Wolfe Street Pottery). The Alexander Pottery was founded in the early part of the nineteenth century and was taken over by George Thomas Mountford in 1888 producing earthenware goods. Myott’s produced earthenware from three ovens, the company having been set-up with family funding by one Ashley Myott, at the incredibly young age of nineteen, after the death of his boss Mountford. Thus making him the youngest independent potter of the period.
Ashley Myott, who’s family originated in Switzerland, was soon partnered in business by his brother Sydney Myott (up until then holding only part-time status within the company) as demand for Myott ware rapidly increased. The brothers then moved to a purpose built five-oven factory - the Brownfield's Works in Cobridge, north of Stoke-on-Trent - extending their works to the adjacent Upper Hanley pottery (purchased from Grimwades) in 1925 to form collectively the Alexander Potteries.
After the expansion of 1925, in addition to their traditional ceramic tableware production, the company began producing in the 1930s an extensive range of hand-painted Art Deco wares. That change of direction may have been as a result of the success of competitor firms in the Potteries, England, who were employing such world-famous designers as Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper. Success must have been virtually instant judging by the vast numbers of such pieces surviving today.
Particularly noted for production of Art Deco vases, jugs and wall pockets, pieces in brighter colours are highly sought after. Orange and brown were the dominant colours used for decoration. In fact a very limited palette was incorporated into the designs - a trick used by artists of the period. Or maybe it was a case of colour availability or perhaps stability as many of the pieces suffer from paint flaking and glaze crazing which reduces value considerably. Blue and red are infrequent decoration colours and can increase the worth of a piece simply by their prescence. However collectors may have to suffer imperfect examples of some of the rarer shapes and patterns as availability of some of the pieces can be extremely limited today.
The early nineteen forties saw a collaboration with the Austrian company of Goldscheider in the production of ceramic figures and face masks up until 1950 (though these pieces are not as sought after as examples produced abroad). Empire ware jugs are also rumoured to have been decorated by Myott although this is unsubstantiated (though the paint style is typical of Myott), and a range of white, Deco inspired 'minimal' table ware was produced for the Cunard shipping line. These pieces are marked 'Cunard Myott Staffordshire England'. Commemorative ware was also produced including pieces commemorating the mayoral role of Sydney Myott who was thrice mayor of Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
In contrast to the output of other firms, Myott Art Deco designs are anonymous. Not only are their designers unidentified but a fire at the Myott works in 1949 reportedly destroyed the firm's records and pattern books; that makes it difficult to reconstruct the chronology and range of Myott's Art Deco output, particularly as pieces are neither signed nor dated. However, a Club member has recently informed us that the pattern book was known to have survived the fire and surfaced in Leeds, England, a few years ago. Whether this was the original master directory remains to be seen - it would be interesting to find its whereabouts presently and also throughout the missing decades.
Until research is carried out into sources such as advertisements and articles in the trade papers of the ceramics industry, we have to rely upon the surviving pieces to understand Myott's production.
In 1949 the company moved to the larger Crane Street Pottery, Hanley (perhaps as a result of the fire) and in 1969 were bought out by Interpace an American corporation based in Parsippany, New Jersey, who were at the time the largest manufacturer of tableware in the USA. The Myott name was retained and in 1976 the company merged with Alfred Meakin Ltd, who were based in Tunstall, to form Myott-Meakin Ltd. In 1989 the name Myott-Meakin (Staffordshire) Ltd. was adopted as a result of an acquisition by Melton Modes. In June 1991 the company was ‘swallowed’ by the Churchill Group of potteries.