Burleigh ware has been handcrafted at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent since 1889. Passing through many hands, every piece of Burleigh is produced by our skilled team of craftsmen. In the second part of our ‘Meet the Craftsmen’ series, we meet Karl in the Mould Making Shop.
Karl has been at Burleigh for 2 years and is responsible for creating working moulds and master copies of moulds, known as blocks and cases made from plaster. Taking over from previous Mouldmaker John, who worked at Burleigh for over 39 years, Karl worked alongside John for a few months before he retired. Using this time to build upon his skills, Karl has mastered the unique method of mould making for Burleigh.
Karl first takes a model of any given item and from this creates a negative and positive set of master copy moulds. The ‘block’ (the first mould made from the model) is kept in the archive for at least 100 years and from this, Karl can create a negative or ‘case’ mould which can then be used to create the ‘working moulds’ which we make Burleigh ware from. The working moulds gradually wear down and need replacing after 30-80 uses.
Utilising a traditional method, Karl produces all elements of the mould making process using plaster which he mixes each day combining the raw powder with water. Finished moulds are dried in heated rooms for up to three days before they are ready for use.
The master moulds are stored within our extensive archive which now holds over 15,000 original designs dating back to the founding of the company and beyond. Our mould archive is a pivotal record of ceramic manufacture in Staffordshire and documents how ceramics have been used in our daily lives, past, present, and future. Many of these classic shapes are celebrated in our current range, sitting alongside newer designs.
Identifying with the workmanship and singularity of every piece of Burleigh, Karl has honed his skills over many years in the pottery industry to ensure that the quality of Burleigh ware is reflected in every element of his work.
Karl’s job as Mouldmaker at Burleigh is exacting, and highly skilful. Whilst this great art has died out in many factories throughout the region, it remains at the heart of the Burleigh story.