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Pair of Sherwin & Cotton Impasto Arts & Crafts Tiles

Style: Floral
• Technique: Impasto
• Designers: William Henry Micklethwait
• Maker: Sherwin & Cotton
Dimensions: 6" x 6"
Date: 1886 (registered)

A great pair of barbotine tiles with nature studies of blossom and fruit. Lovely natural colours very relaxing but still a pleasure to behold, exceedingly brilliant glazes that create a glow in the dark effect as they catch the light. These tiles were made for the ironfounders William Henry Micklethwait, and when fitted in to iron fireplaces with the coals glowing would really look amazing

Entirely handmade, true arts & crafts, the buff clay pressed in to a mould with grains of brown and green clay to produce a speckled effect. Then decorated by painting with slips rather than stain giving a three dimensional effect and finished with a brilliant glaze. Very strong and durable tiles made from dense buff clay and thicker than usual at half an inch.

More arts & crafts than tiles by the arts & crafts mass producers William de Morgan & Co. and Morris & Co, closer to wares by potters Martin Bros. and Burmantofts. Most of William de Morgan's tiles were painted to traced outlines (painting by numbers), this was copied from the pattern book by hand.

Only three barbotine tiles with registration numbers are known, the designs registered to Wm Henry Micklethwait ironfounders from Rotheram the tiles made for them by Sherwin and Cotton. Hand decorated tiles never have embossed or impressed pattern or registration numbers except with this rare exception where the clay is plastic clay and the clay pressed soon before the tile was decorated. The decorating would be effected when the clay was still quite moist as it would help the slips to adhere.

The design registration numbers suggest that barbotine tiles like this were produced before similar modern majolica tiles (dust pressed relief and multicolour lead glazes). These have pattern numbers B225 and B227 suggesting a couple of hundred barbotine designs had already been made by 1886 which would certainly be over the course of a number of years. The earliest multicolour modern majolica I have seen with registration number is 1887, a handful of earlier registrations are noted although it is not known if these were made polychrome.

It should be noted that there are three types of barbotine decorated tiles by Sherwin & Cotton with mostly similar nature study floral designs. Whilst not being mentioned in the literature or indeed by anyone I have been in contact with indeed no expert appears to have even noted the difference despite the pattern numbers giving a very strong clue by having different prefixes. Later types of barbotine tile were decorated in slips but upon embossed clay the pattern and relief already determined by the mould. There are apparently few which are impasto - freehand decorated on a flat surface the relief built upon in slip the process requiring great skill to produce the best effect.

Versos very clean, Staffordshire knot badge, rare impressed registration numbers, incised pattern numbers. Tiles for the scholar of dates, designs and techniques, not really to be stuck on to a wall, I suspect that few museums have seen or even heard of these.


Condition: Very fine
Price: £275 (approx $339)
Ref: 03077/8


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In very fine condition, left has a couple of very tiny surface marks, right has a very small chip left edge, other marks are manufacturing flaws. Super brilliantly glazed.



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