Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at a stalwart of the pottery world that has been used to serve up meals for generations...
Easter seems to have been a long time coming this year. It’s often the first big occasion after Christmas when families travel to be (and eat) together over the long weekend.
So in preparation, this week let’s look at the iconic workhorse of the crockery stable – Denby Arabesque.
Pieces of enduringly popular Denby pottery have been staples of virtually every British home since 1806. Now, who remembers Denby’s 60s and 70s experiments with bolder designs than the familiar ‘block’ colours and gradual shading you might currently have in your cupboard?
One of Denby’s most iconic ranges was Arabesque, unusually created by just one designer, Gill Pemberton, right down to the ergonomics of the handles and lids. Inspired by a trip to Russia in 1962 and launched a year later, its striking bold design with yellow, brown and red circles on a dark brown background is instantly
Originally, the exotic red and gold decoration was hand painted directly on to the raw, unfired brown glaze by Gill’s decorator, Trish Sea. This added richness, but produced great variation in the depth and clarity of the pattern. Moving to a decal or transfer style print introduced uniformity to the range.
In the 1970s Denby spearheaded the new concept of ‘oven to tableware’, which eliminated the need to transfer food from cooking pots to ornate tableware dishes. This complemented the 70s ‘back to nature’ movement; apparently you can spot examples of Denby Arabesque in ‘The Good Life’!
These are good examples of Denby Arabesque.
The cup and saucer are on sale at for £4.50 and the bowl is £8.
The ‘marmite’ Arabesque was produced for 20 years before being relegated to car boot sale leftovers; however interest and prices have consistently risen in recent years.
Arabesque’s collecting appeal includes the strikingly recognisable pattern, the huge range of items produced, and the robust durability, meaning many examples survive well to this day.
Scarcer items accrue the most collectability and value, plus the earlier, very rare, hand painted pieces. Look out for idiosyncratic items like the pot stand or ceramic ice bucket, and, with Easter coming up, even the Arabesque egg-cup!