Last week I looked at the incredible rise in popularity of 1960s teak furniture and this week I open with the demise in popularity of so many 19th and 20th century porcelain factories. Not however the products emanating from the doors of the Shelley factory, these have always kept their appeal.

The Shelley factory, established in 1872, was first known as Wileman & Co., then as Foley and as Shelley from 1925, becoming Shelley Potteries Ltd. in 1929 and finally Shelley China Ltd. in 1965.

Shelley, under the direction of Art Director, Frederick Rhead, produced a number of hand painted earthenware grotesques, animals and Toby jugs in the 1890s which were deliberately made to look ugly. These achieved great success, but it was not until the 1920s that Shelley pieces achieved their ultimate success. Their high quality Art Deco tableware became famous with the help of a national advertising campaign.

After the Art Deco success came the figures of fairies and other characters, as well as nursery wares based on the illustrations of Mabel Lucie Attwell.

Shelley pieces are always popular in auctions and the two main collecting areas are the Art Deco tea wares and the Mabel Lucie Attwell related pieces, which tend to represent children, the clergy and golfers.

Although Shelley figures are amongst the strangest ever produced they are still very collectable. The most interest tends to be in the chubby cheeked child studies accompanied by fairy folk. Many of these are modelled riding a variety of animals and birds, or standing on toadstools, sometimes with the addition of rabbits.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Mabel Lucie Attwell: Nursery Ware

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) was a successful British illustrator. She financed her own studies at both Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and St Martin’s School of Art, although disliking the formality of the training never completed either preferring to branch out on her own. She was represented by London art agents Francis and Mills and had immediate success with her drawings of children and fairies so much so that in 1922 the ‘Lucie Attwell Annual’ was produced and became a lifetime series.

Attwell illustrated for books, cards, magazines and posters as well as having her images used by advertisers so it was no surprise that her pictures of cute chubby children, supposedly based on her own daughter, eventually got turned into patterns for ceramics namely nursery ware. Although nursery ware, ceramics aimed at children, had been around since the early 19th century, they had always been designed around moral and educational messages which children would reveal as they ate their food. By the early 20th century, however, the trends were changing and the serious themes were being replaced by more playful and relaxed ones perfectly in tune with Attwell’s illustrations.

A Lucie Attwell Nursery Plate
A Lucie Attwell Nursery Plate

In 1926 Shelley Potteries commissioned Attwell to produce a series of designs for a range of their nursery ware. The first series included pictures of children, animals and Boo Boos (little elves in green suits) and was an immediate success with her wares even making it into the nursery of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and later Prince Charles. She continued to design for Shelley and in 1937 also extended her range to include figurines.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website