Meet the Craftsmen: Chris
Every piece of Burleigh is handcrafted at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. Passing through many hands, Burleighware is produced by our dedicated team of craftsmen. Starting with Chris in our Sliphouse, to the Mould-makers and Tissue-printers, meet the craftsmen behind our beautiful pottery.
As the starting point of Burleigh, Chris works singlehandedly in the Sliphouse, located in the heart of Middleport Pottery. After nine years at Burleigh, Chris has become highly skilled in meticulously preparing and processing the clay that is used to make Burleigh ware.
Using the original machinery dating back to 1889, Chris monitors the clay as it passes through the blungers, which blend the raw ingredients. At Burleigh, we utilise two types of clay to craft our fine earthenware collections; ball clay is carefully sourced from Devon and our china clay comes from Cornwall. Both types are infused with flux and flint during the process to give them strength and durability. We produce both slip and plastic clay which enable us to make a wide variety of shapes using different production methods. The slip is later poured into plaster moulds to make detailed shapes such as teapots and cow creamers, whilst the plastic clay is used to make flatware pieces including bowls and plates.
Chris tests the slip on a regular basis, adding water when necessary to ensure that the consistency is correct. If the slip is too thick or thin in texture, this will lead to problems when drying the clay. Over the years, Chris has developed a trained eye that allows him to immediately tell when the consistency has changed.
Taking sheets of plastic clay, Chris refines them by using a 'pug mill'. This machine removes air pockets which gives a uniform consistency to the clay and produces long rolls of clay known as 'pugs'. The original pug mill is situated in the far corner of the Sliphouse, and is maintained by Chris on a daily basis. Chris pugs the clay and prepares it for pressing. Any excess clay is then reprocessed and reused to prevent any wastage.
When Chris has fully prepared the clay, it is then transported through pumps to the Castors who begin filling the moulds. Using his wealth of experience and passion for Burleigh, Chris guarantees the quality and longevity of our clay. Appreciative of the work that goes into each piece of Burleigh ware, Chris favours the classic Blue Calico design for its iconic pattern and deep blue hue.