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Hubby and I have been watching The Great Pottery Throwdown, a British competition in the art of pottery and ceramics. Recently, the contestants were given a timed skills test in the art of tissue transfer, and the item of choice? A Burleigh teapot!

Burleigh’s website describes the intricate process:

First, liquid clay, or slip, is kept cool underground in a large container, where an automated paddle keeps it moving. The slip is pumped above to the casting shop when it’s the right consistency, and poured into plaster moulds. The remaining slip is re-mixed in the system underground, and re-used.

Plaster moulds are used because it helps to draw out moisture in the clay. It will dry from the outside, in. Excess slip is removed and the moulds are set aside to dry. Once sufficiently dry, they are carefully removed from the moulds. Rough edges and seams are removed with special tools and sponges for a flawless item, then dried further in the drying room.

The next step is for fire the clay in a gas kiln at a temperature of 1180 degrees for several hours. Once the clay is fired, it can no longer be recycled back into slip. Each piece has shrunk to the proper size and is still porous so it can decorated using the tissue transfer technique.

Using copper rollers that have been intricately engraved by hand, stunning floral patterns are printed onto tissue paper with a thick, oil-based ink. This delicate tissue paper is then meticulously cut to fit and applied to the ceramics by hand, using brushes and soft soap to press the design onto the clay. The tissue is removed with water, and the item will once again be fired to fuse the pattern onto the item.

Finally, the ceramic is inspected, dipped and fired a final time to seal the ceramic for use. In Victorian times, the Dipping House was the most dangerous place to work because the glaze contained lead.

Burleigh pottery was established in 1851 and was acquired by Denby Pottery in 2010. On June 13, 2011, the  Prince’s Regeneration Trust purchased the pottery for 7.5 millions pounds and leased it back to Denby so that they may continue production and establish a pottery museum.

This pottery has remained faithful to the centuries-old tissue transfer technique. Specialized artisans are trained for years, taking up to 7 years to master it. The ceramics themselves are crafted at the Middleport Pottery, which is the last working Victorian pottery in England. Burleigh has crafted there since 1889. It’s earthenware clay is a special blend that gives not only a luxurious look and feel, but is also very durable. Burleigh Pottery is known for its iconic white ceramic and intricate blue prints.

It is always best when discussing serious matters to do so around a teapot.

Gordon Dalquist