I certainly have it on my jeans. In fact I have it all over them and on my T-shirt. And my trainers. The stuff gets everywhere. But is there something in my family history that led me to the wheel, to wet clay and buckets of glaze?
I knew that something provoked my interest and led me to develop skills as a potter over the years, but I thought my main influence was early exposure to ceramic artists when I lived in South America as a child in the 1970s. There I saw and came to love both the remarkable pre-Columbian pottery in slip-decorated and burnished earthenware, and modern work by great South American potters
But later, well after I had begun working in clay and was developing a style of my own, I discovered that I am closely related to a family of highly successful commercial potters.
Working and developing their products from 1858 to 1939, the Goss family’s firm created fine white porcelain, which came to be known as crested china or more simply, Goss China. From their pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, William Henry Goss and his employees actually created a market. They capitalised on the birth of tourism. Goss China, with its eagle brand stamped on the bottom of every piece, bore the names and crests of holiday destinations around the UK, particularly the seaside resorts, and even of towns across the British Empire.
Workers and their families enjoying holidays, perhaps for the first time, would buy the souvenir ceramics and take them home, where they would be proudly displayed on mantlepieces, reminding them of the days they sent in Scarborough, Bognor Regis or even London. Goss China had and still has a style of its own, and is still enthusiastically collected. You can pick up a modest piece for just a fiver. (The photo at the top of this post shows two typical Goss pieces.)
But it would appear that, successful though the crested china business was, at least one of WH Goss’s brothers left the UK to make his fortune independently. He ended up in the Falkland Islands, where I was born and spent my early years. He too was a successful businessman, running a hotel and a pub, and his descendants are still in the Falklands. I am one of them.
It is probably just coincidence, of course, but did I inherited a feeling for clay and a determination to make beautiful things from from it? I like to think so.
I will never make Goss-style delicate porcelain crested souvenirs, however, because, quite frankly, I don’t particuarly like Goss China. I do, however, admire my ancestors’ work and their business acumen. But it’s just not my cup of tea (and by the way, the Gosses made many fine cups and saucers). Creating a market from scratch for a type of pottery that is still collected was an amazing achievement, and I’m proud of my Goss China genes.