Tiles from Sherwin & Cotton

  

Sherwin & Cotton were one of the greatest decorative tile makers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries commencing in 1877 and selling up to Johnsons in 1911. One of the most prolific designers especially with its famed art director George Cartlidge with a vast range of designs in numerous techniques some of which were exclusive to themselves. They made many tiles especially for the fireplace market with a wide range of five-tile panels and 6x12 for panel centrepieces and objéts d'art.

Famed for George Cartlidge's 'photographic' tiles they were true art tile manufacturers, the most often found tiles in original frames as objects intheir own right rather than to enhance a larger piece are from the company. They used many unique processes that others tried to imitate but could not reach the heights of the company, it was the first manufacturer to produce barbotine tiles in any quantity. A great part of the beauty of their wares is their most brilliant glazes, intensely coloured yet the most translucent of all the contemporary manufacturers, without the glazes George Cartlidge's émaux ombrants tiles would have been as dull as those of other companies. Compare with other companies embossed figural tiles, tile specialists like Craven Dunnill, famed manufacturers like Mintons and Sherwin & Cotton's are unique. The other companies had to make their tiles more embossed, less delicate, to utilise the tremblay effect of majolica glazes, none match those from Sherwin & Cotton.

In many ways more arts and crafts than those companies who have gained such reputation, whilst Morris & Co.'s tiles were either decorated overglaze so subject to wear and not really fulfilling a basic requirement of tiles, durability, or dutch made imports often with copies of islamic patterns, George Cartlidge as art director both designed, manufactured and worked with the technologists of the company to devise the processes to bring his aspirations to reality.

Many inferior tiles are clamed to be by Sherwin & Cotton, they are all over the internet on eBay and fireplace sites. One can't really blame most of the vendors because they looked up the grip pattern in a book and found wrong information. The book in question is The Decorated Tile by J & B Austwick, published in 1980 it was the first book about victorian (and some edwardian) tiles in full colour, and the first with lots of mistakes. There are 159 entries in Appendix A Tile Backs and Marks, 159 sounds impressive but 28 are printed or embossed trade marks or badges, of the remaining 131 versos 102 are attributed by virtue of bearing names, initials or trade marks and 3 are classed as unidentified. That leaves just 26 unnamed versos that are of genuine help in identifying unmarked tiles, or they should be but nearly half, twelve to be exact, appear to be at least to some extent incorrect. Two of those errors are attributing T & R Boote grip patterns to Sherwin & Cotton.

T & R Boote was a mid-tier manufacturer, the cheapest of all the best known and large manufacturers as decorating quality was often not great, the biscuit however was really good and popular amongst budget and better tile decorators. Whilst most of the top tile decorators used Minton, Hollins & Co. and Maw & Co. Boote's blanks were the most widely used and by decorators of all skill ranges. That means that two versos, grip patterns, that Austwick attribute to Sherwin & Cotton could have been used by just about any low - to mid-tier tile decorator and often were and very few of them reached the quality of output that Sherwin & Cotton consistently achieved.

 

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