OF ALL THE names associated with the history of English ceramics, Josiah Wedgwood's is probably the most familiar. By the time of Wedgwood's apprenticeship during the first half of the 18th Century, Staffordshire, in west-central England, had been a center of ceramic production for many years. Both coal and clay were nearby, and convenient waterways led to the ports of Hull and Liverpool and from there by sea to London and beyond. In 1769, Wedgwood established a model factory near Stoke-on-Trent and created a village for his workers. He imported skilled craftsmen from the Continent and used English designers such as Robert Adam and artists such as John Flaxman to capitalize on the neoclassical trends of the day.
Wedgwood was tireless in making improvements and advancements--reviving a brilliant green lead glaze not used since Tudor times and developing cream ware, or queen's ware, a fine whitish earthenware covered with a clear lead glaze. By 1775, china clay had been discovered in Cornwall, and he was able to develop pearl ware, even whiter than cream ware. He revived the use of red stoneware, invented black stoneware and finally developed the white unglazed stoneware he stained blue (or green, mauve or yellow) and called jasper ware (still made today). The most desirable jasper ware are the blue-and-white urns, candlesticks and cachepots with classical motifs, the ubiquitous portrait plaques and the tea services in a variety of color combinations, such as terra cotta with red Egyptian motifs.