Meet Me at the Museum: In our new blog meet some of the people who work at Gladstone Pottery Museum through their personal stories and experiences.
The Festive Flower Making Workshop Saturday 30th November 2019 by Rita Floyd
As I travel down to Gladstone Pottery Museum on my bus I take exactly the same route down Uttoxeter Road towards Longton as I did at fifteen years old as a trainee bone china flower maker on my first day at Royal Adderley Floral China Works on Sutherland Road. This was April 1972.
Little did I know then that more than 47 years later I would still be travelling on the very same bus route to Gladstone and still doing the job I love.
I trained at Adderley to be a flower maker straight from school along with around six other school leavers. In those days there were a large number of good skilled jobs to choose from on the factories in Longton.
I chose flower making as I had aunties and great-aunties who were flower makers in the past. I felt a love for it very early on as a child as I watched one of my aunties working from her home. There were over eighty ladies making flowers on Adderley Floral, all on piece work, working very fast earning their wages, as I did eventually after two years of training. I worked for many years in the industry before I began my career as a Flower Making Demonstrator and Workshop Leader at Gladstone.
I love my workshops and today we are making Christmas roses and Stars of Bethlehem. I have eight ladies in my session, all different ages. I have a nana, a daughter and granddaughter together. Nana was a paintress in Burslem in the late 1950s and 60s and told me many tales of her life in the industry, which I found very interesting. She could have been a flower maker, she loved the feel of my bone china clay and really had a flair for it.
My next two ladies were mum and daughter. I recognised them from last year’s Gladstone Christmas carol evening, they watched me at my lamplit demonstration. Mum had been a flower maker at Aynsley China in the 1960s and she also told us many tales of her career during our session. We all soon began to relax and talk, with lots of laughter included, whilst creating individual petals and piecing them together to make our festive flowers.
We rolled the clay into a sausage shape then just pressed the middle once, followed by pressing on the edge to make it thin whilst the middle stays thicker so the petal stands up. Once this was learned by my ladies we went on to secure the petals around a middle made with a comb. We rolled the clay into a rectangle shape with a thin edge and placed the teeth of the comb onto the edge dragging it along to give a nice frilly edge. Rolled up this makes a lovely centre to arrange the Christmas rose petals around. Finally I secured the petals on for my ladies and the excess clay underneath was squeezed out and formed into a stem. I cut off the clay underneath some to make the flower flat to hold a small candle.
My other ladies were studio potters and had never made flowers, or even experienced the feel of flowermaking bone china and at first couldn’t quite get used to it as they were throwers, which entails a completely different clay medium. However, the ladies were determined to make their flowers and it was so interesting to watch them ‘making’ in their own way. Whichever flower I am making all the petals are pressed out on a bench and shaped by hand, this technique is the industrial way flowers have always been made. I love to see how people adapt to other styles of pottery making and to learn different techniques myself.
This is why I love my flower workshops and you can always learn something different by sharing others skills. “Clay is so Cool”.
We all enjoyed our festive Flower Making and I love running my workshops as I get to meet and spend time with lovely people who have the same love for clay as I do, it can really bring people together in a fun and relaxing way.
All my ladies left with their festive flower creations and very pleased with themselves, also hopefully with nice memories of our morning together at Gladstone.
Here’s to the next one. I love my job. Merry Christmas everyone!