words Johanna Agerman
British ceramics giant Wedgwood should have been celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. Instead, it announced on Monday that it has called in the receivers. But it didn’t have to be this way.
Other venerable European porcelain brands have spent the past few years bringing in young design talent and refreshing their philosophy. German porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg, 262 years old, is now producing the challenging work of Londoner Khashayar Naimanan. Chintzy Lladro – a sprightly 55 years old – brought in Jaime Hayon in 2006 to work his surreal magic on its figurines. Royal Tichelaar Makkum, 119 years old, called on the whole Dutch design brigade to transform their image. Between them, these firms have made porcelain sexy again.
Who did Wedgwood turn to? Celebrity designers Jasper Conran and Kelly Hoppen, and most recently illustrator Will Broome. It’s no wonder it went under. And it’s doubly depressing, because Josiah Wedgwood lived by innovation and forward-thinking when he founded the company in Stoke-on-Trent in 1759. It doesn’t reflect well on Britain’s supposedly world-class design culture. Outsourcing production probably didn’t help its reputation, either.
Ten parties have now registered their interest in acquiring the Waterford Wedgwood group since it went into receivership on Monday. Let’s just hope that one of them has some imagination and daring in its rescue package.