Josiah Wedgwood – Potter, Pioneer and Philanthropist
Time & Location
About the Event
Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-1795) was born into the most exciting era of English history, a period of change and development dominated by the Age of Enlightenment, which embraced both the agrarian and industrial revolutions. The lecture will explore the influences and importance of fashion, taste, commerce and culture on Wedgwood ceramics of the 18th century. It also will examine the importance of Josiah Wedgwood as a leading manufacturer of ceramics during the birth of the consumer society. The talk will look at the many different facets of Josiah’s life from his humble beginnings as the twelfth and youngest child of a third-generation potter, through to his wares being used in every court in Europe. It also will look at the important connections he made, the artists he employed and his great scientific achievements, and it will cover his reputation not just as a renowned potter, but as a scientist, an employer and as a friend and family man. Josiah Wedgwood was an extraordinary man, both of and ahead of his time, which this lecture will hope to illustrate.
Born in Stone, Staffordshire, Gaye Blake-Roberts MBE, DUniv. FMA. FRSA, was educated at Wellington High School in Shropshire. In l97l, she joined the Department of Ceramics and Glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, during which time she was given special leave to assist in the formation of the Coalport China Works Museum, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire.
In l979, Miss Blake-Roberts joined Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Limited, Barlaston, Staffordshire, as Curator of the Wedgwood Museum. During her time at Wedgwood, the museum underwent several changes, including the development of a new building housing exhibition galleries and research facilities, which won the very prestigious Art Fund Prize of Museum of the Year in 2009.
Miss Blake-Roberts has lectured extensively on the history of Wedgwood and the English ceramics industry not only throughout Britain and Europe, but also during several tours in Australia, Japan and the United States of America, where she also completed two Lecture-Fellowship tours for the British-American Associates. Additionally, she has appeared often on radio and television, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Miss Blake-Roberts has written prolifically, contributing to catalogues for major exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and the City Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. In l995, as part of the Wedgwood company's bicentenary celebrations to mark the life and achievements of Josiah Wedgwood I, she was a co-curator of a major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and was the co-author of its catalogue, The Genius of Wedgwood.
In l996, in association with a major exhibition on Mason’s porcelain and ironstone, she wrote a book entitled, Mason's The First Two Hundred Years. More recently she has written Wedgwood Jasperware (2011), Wedgwood – The illustrated history (2014) and Wedgwood: A story of Creation and Innovation, published by Rizzoli in 2017. She also has contributed prodigiously to scholarly publications, both in England and America, on a wide variety of subjects.
Miss Blake-Roberts is the Chair of the College of Fellows at Keele University, Staffordshire; Vice President of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Shropshire; Chair of the Raven Mason Trust; and is actively involved as a board member of the Staffordshire University Academies Trust and the Northern Ceramic Society. She retired from the Wedgwood Museum in February 2020 and is currently Senior Research Fellow attached to the Research Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. During the Queen’s Birthday Honours, usually in June, but delayed this year to mid-October, it was announced that Miss Blake-Roberts has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), a high honor among orders, and when COVID-19 restrictions permit, she will receive the medal at Buckingham Palace.
Image: Plaque, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons (British, Etruria, Staffordshire, 1759–present), after a design by Lady Templetown (before 1759–1823, active 1777–83), ca. 1785–90, Jasperware, 7 1/4 × 18 3/8 in. (18.4 × 46.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1894