The Bow Factory operated from 1744 and made wares in a type of soft paste porcelain made using a special patented formula known as ‘Bone-ash’ that was developed by Thomas Frye and Edward Heylen. They added ground calcined ox-bones which made the porcelain denser and heavier. Bow is thought to be the first English factory to include bone ash in its recipe although it was also used by the likes of Chelsea and Lowestoft during this period.
Bow is particularly well-known for its blue-and-white porcelain. They produced vast quantities of everyday wares in a style to imitate the very popular Chinese and Japanese porcelain, so much so that the factory is sometimes referred to as the ‘New Canton’. Early Bow was painted in a bright royal blue and the potting was thick with classic designs such as flower, tree and bamboo motifs, Chinese landscapes and imitations of the Kakiemon style particularly the partridge pattern. Bow can often be distinguished due to the deepness and darkness of their blues and powdered decoration that was dusted on was a speciality of the factory.
Unfortunately the burnt ash component in the porcelain caused regular cracking and browning to occur especially on the everyday wares that were used and washed regularly and this is now seen by collectors as a key characteristic of the Bow factory. The quality of the porcelain decreased after Frye’s death in 1761 and was more thinly potted so even more vulnerable to the browning problem.
The Bow factory also made ornamental porcelain making figures that despite often being viewed as poor copies of the more sophisticated ones produced by Meissen and Chelsea, sold well as their rustic look matched the fashionable Rococo style popular at the time.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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