As the rain and hailstones splash against the window and I prepare for an afternoon of work, I can’t help introducing you to Beryl, Jasmine and Iris, three beautiful cups from Wood’s Ware Utility China. Beryl, in particular, pops up a lot from trendy cafes to village halls and public spaces. The other two are less common, sadly.
Wood and Sons produced a vast array of tea and table wares from way back but it’s the above that seems to have captured many a heart. Wood’s Ware also known as Bursley Wares and Wood’s Ivory Ware was produced during the 1930s and right through the 1940s and so falls under The Utility Scheme which was introduced into Britain in the 1940s to ensure low and medium quality consumer goods were produced to high standards at moderate prices. Families suffering the loss of much could, in effect, replace lost material goods one cup at a time at a good price. Might sound silly, now, but that scheme, applied to furniture and clothes as well, was an innovative and ingenious plan.
The Utility Scheme worked on many levels and it gave designers the chance to reinterpret trends and set a new aesthetic in motion. I think Wood’s Ware truly symbolises a sense of simplicity. Gone were the ornate and sometimes gaudy tea sets and it its place a calm, single coloured item. That simplicity was definitely needed as Britain heaved itself into a thoroughly modern world. And now, some 70 years later, those sets have stood the test of time and have been reborn, in a manner of speaking, as we try to turn to a simpler way of living.