Josiah Wedgwood was born in 1730 and began his career in the potteries at the age of 14 when he was apprenticed to his brother. In 1752 he set up on his own with two partners and made an undistinguished range of domestic stonewares. After two years the partnership dissolved and Wedgwood joined Thomas Whieldon.
From 1754 his name recurs again and again in association with every major breakthrough in the development of earthenware and stoneware, first with agate and tortoiseshell wares, quickly followed in 1758 with a remarkable green glaze and, in 1760, a cream coloured glaze over a cream coloured body which became the celebrated Creamware.
As this was clearly a tremendous commercial proposition, Wedgwood set up on his own at Burslem in partnership with Thomas Bentley and, in association with a former aquaintance, William Greatbach, made a range of tableware in the form of fruit and vegetables to compete with the range of leaf patterns being made in the porcelain factories. Known today as cauliflower ware, it used the green and cream coloured glazes together, with remarkable effect.
In its initial stages, creamware was not resistant to hot water, and first products were services of tableware and domestic and kitchen products. After 1765, when Wedgwood was commissioned by Queen Charlotte, he called this range Queens Ware in her honour, although he continued to use his standard mark.
Two Liverpool men, John Sadler and Guy Green, were producing transfer printed tiles and basic flatware from about 1756 onwards, and when Wedgwood realised that this method of decoration would greatly decrease the cost of creamware, he entered into a business agreement with them in about 1761, sending cartloads of creamware to their factory to be printed instead of employing artists to hand painteach individual piece.
His original factory at Burslem outgrown, in 1769 Wedgwood opened new premises with the ambition of making vases and grand ornamental wares in the classic manner which was then so fashionable. He named it Etruria and, still in partnership with Thomas Bentley, developed his great range of Etruscan wares in an incredible range of marbled bodies which imitated all manner of decorative stones and marbles, as well as reviving an ancient technique of encaustic decoration for black basalts with iron red scenes from classical antiquity.
But of all his immense range of creamwares, pearlwares, fine stonewares and earthenwares, the one he is remembered for most is his Wedgwood blue. This was known as jasper ware, and was quite similar to Castleford ware in many respects, since it was dense, vitrified and porcellanous, although its formula was a complicated and sophisticated compound.
Jasperware could be coloured right through the body with various metallic oxides or, less expensive, dipped in a solution of coloured jasper slip. Solid jasper was made in blue, sage, green, lilac, lavender, olive, green and black. Occasionally a rare yellow solid jasper was made, but it is not common. Embossed ornament in high relief was applied on these varied grounds, in pure white jasper. Wedgwood began making solid jasper in about 1774, and the full range of colours was in production by about 1777. Jasper dip was introduced in 1785.
Josiah Wedgwoods lifelong partner from his early days at Burslem, Thomas Bentley, died in 1870. After ten years, during which time he worked alone, Josiah Wedgwood took his three sons, John, Josiah II, and Thomas into partnership, together with his nephew William Byerley. The firm, originally called Wedgwood and Bentley, changed to Josiah Wedgwood from 1780 – 1790, and then to Wedgwood,Sons and Byerley until 1793. Two of Josiahs sons resigned at that time and the firm became Wedgwood,Son and Byerley, a name which continued after Josiahs death in 1795 until William Byerley died in 1810.
Josiah Wedgwood II made bone china for a brief ten years between c1812 and 1822 without great enthusiasm, but production was revived at Etruria in about 1878 as a commercial proposition and bone china is still made today by the Wegwood company.