John Lewis James was born in 1858 but very little is known of his early life. He was certainly employed by Frederick Garrard at some time in the 1890s before Garrard’s death and is known to have continued to make tiles, possibly up to 1911 or later. The Census for that year shows James living at 34 Ruthin Road, Blackheath with his wife Mary Ann, his aunt Ann Bates and his niece Eva Pitt. His occupation is described as “Decorative Earthenware Tile Maker” and he is listed as an “Employer”. In January 1906, Frank Wedgwood was recommending to Alfred Powell, the Arts and Crafts Architect and Designer, that “Such pieces as yourself and two lads painted could be fired at James (on piecework terms which you would get from him)” (Batkin 140) and by July that year, Frank Wedgwood was offering to send a bricklayer to Millwall to build an experimental kiln for firing the wares that had been decorated by Alfred and his new bride, Louise. These were bowls, vases, jugs etc made at Etruria for the Powells to decorate, so the kiln would have been somewhat different to the existing kilns which were made or adapted to fire tiles. We have no idea how long the collaboration between the Powells and James lasted, but they are noted at some time in the early 1920s as becoming “interested in the Delftware technique of decoration and they used pottery made from a hard red clay that they covered in an opaque tin glaze, and then freely painted with lustre decoration” (Natkin 142). This description of “hard red clay” suggests the clay that Garrard and James had used for the manufacture of their tiles.

Bibliography

Correspondence from Frank Wedgwood to Alfred Powell, cited in Maureen Batkin, . Shepton Beauchamp: Richard Dennis Publications, 1982.


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