The ceramics known as Homemaker, have become classic, representing an era but completely relevant in the modern home. The the striking black and white designs first attracted me when I was a student. While they seemed retro then, looking at the pieces now – they have never been more cool, with depictions of mid-century classic furniture and house plants. Homemaker was originally mass produced and sold in Woolworths, but today the pieces are sought after, collected, used and enjoyed.
The pattern was designed by Enid Seeney and the shape of the series by Tom Arnold, manufactured by Ridgway Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent from1957 and remained in production until 1970. Made from white earthenware the design was applied by transfer allowing the range to be mass produced and available at an affordable price.
Edith Seeney studied at Burslem School of Art in Stoke-on-Trent before becoming the first woman to be trained in the Spode Copeland design studio. She then joined a young team of artists at Booths and Colclough, part of the Ridgway group in 1951. Her early work used stylised floral motifs, often executed in pen and ink which was perfectly suited to the new movements in postwar design, typified by the furniture she saw in magazines.
In earlier decades most plates had rims, but American-style tableware was coming into fashion along with new manufacturing techniques, so when she was challenged by Tom Arnold to produce an all-over pattern for a new design of plate, Seeney created motifs that depicted domestic items and furniture, some of which were far beyond the reach of the average family.
The design however was believed to be too radical for the public, but convinced it could be a success, Seeney and her team made up a prototype coffee set which was spotted by the buyer for Woolworths. In 1957 an order was placed for tea sets, to be sold in five of its London stores.
Edith Seeney left the ceramics industry when she married her husband just four months after the original sale of her design. You can read more about her in The Guardian obituary and if you are lucky to come across a copy, the full story of Homemaker was published in the book Homemaker: A 1950s Design Classic by Simon Moss.