Lord Wedgwood sat down on a leather couch at the home department of Bloomingdales. In about 45 min., he would be hosting a tea party and presenting the newest collections to Wedgwood china and giftware.
He was the international representative of the company after all and extremely passionate about his line of work – “I’m a china junkie. I collect like crazy.”
But at that moment, he was “just Lord Wedgwood,” he says after I inquired about his lengthy birth name (Lord Piers Anthony Weymouth Wedgwood).
His dress – coral trousers, a striped button-down shirt and a cream blazer with a handkerchief in his chest pocket – was as impressive as Wedgwood and its history.
Founded in 1759, the company has had its china grace the tables of royalty. In fact, it flourished because of the patronage of Queen Charlotte.
Wedgwood pieces, known for its china patterns and hand-painted ceramics, has sixty different colors and color combinations and between 15 and 20 white patterns alone.
Lord Wedgwood spoke to us about why the company continues to be successful, pegged the quintessential Wedgwood piece and relayed a little bit about his life.
Boca Mag: What was serving on the House of Lords like?
Lord Wedgwood: It was an extraordinary privilege. Part of that time, it was difficult because I was a serving officer in my regiment and based overseas, but certainly during the last 10 to 15 years, I was very active on a number of issues. I didn’t agree with the reforms that were being implemented for the House of Lords, not because I didn’t think there should be reform but it was being implemented in the wrong way I felt. So I fought against that and I was obviously on the losing side, and I decided it was time for me to move on and concentrate my efforts on Wedgwood – which now for me is well over a 40-year journey, having started in the slip house at the age of 15 going on 16.
BM: The slip house?
LW: The slip house is where you mix clays. It’s a very basic part of the business, and I learned the business from, as they say, the slip house up.
BM: What do you think makes your company so successful?
LW: A product that has an appeal, that is durable, that we have sustained through the many changes. I think it also helps that Britain played a very influential role in the world during the 1800s, so our products just naturally went to a number of places where we were involved. And I like to think there is an appreciation by a discerning customer for the kinds of products that we make. The fact that we still concentrate heavily on the hand craftsmanship helps to make our products to be that much more unique, more special and a very good reason why we are finding ourselves in a demanding position in fast-developing countries.
BM: What is the quintessential Wedgwood piece?
LW: The Portland Vase in Jasperware is the icon of the company. The original was glass-engraved made by, we think, the Alexandrians in Rome in A.D. 50. It’s in the British Museum. My great-grandfather managed to borrow it from the then-owners, the Portland family. And he spent four years diligently copying this piece. Very complicated piece to make and as I say, that’s kind of become the icon. But what takes the line’s share of business is bone china dinnerware.
BM: Tell me more about bone china dinnerware.
LW: The makeup of bone china is such that it is extremely strong, it’s translucent, it’s made to specific standards so that it’s strong. It doesn’t happen to be that very thick kind of china – dishware. It’s sophisticated, it’s elegant, and handled in the correct way it is very, very durable
** It’s dishwasher safe when using the recommended dishwasher detergent and microwave safe if it has no metallic detail.
The company is currently looking into creating home furnishing items and opening freestanding tea shops in the continental U.S. It is also reinstating its apprentice program, which trains aspiring future leaders in the industry.
Also to note: the Wedgwood factory in Barlaston, England, is starting renovations this week to turn it into a world class visitor’s destination and museum. The projected date of completion is early 2015.
To find out more about the Wedgwood collection, visit http://www.wedgwood.co.uk/.