The Lake District

A Tale From The Lakes

The Lake District's rolling hills and tranquil waters have seduced and inspired many writers, artists and nature lovers over the centuries. Even today, it remains one of the most rural, unspoilt areas of the British Isles - home to a huge variety of wildlife.

Beswick Beatrix Potter Peter RabbitOne writer and artist who was so inspired by her childhood holidays in the Lake District that she made it her home was Beatrix Potter. Her paintbrush gave birth to many memorable characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and Tabitha Twitchit, whose natural habitat was the Lakes and their surrounding hillsides.

The recent film "Miss Potter", starring Renee Zellweger, has undoubtedly helped to raise the profile of these wonderful children's stories, but as any collector of storybook figurines will know, Beswick's Beatrix Potter figurines have never lost their appeal - remaining in production for more than 40 years following their introduction in 1947.

The production process used to create these colourful earthenware figurines changed very little throughout those 40 years, and despite the figures being transferred to the Royal Albert brand in 1989, the quality and finish of these figurines remained unchanged.

Design

Royal Albert Beatrix Potter Miss Moppet
First, the designer will study the original illustrations and stories - to really understand the character he or she will be drawing.

This is followed by the initial design phase - the designer decides on a suitable pose for the new figure and produces initial drawings for the modeller to work with.


Modelling

The modeller takes the designer's drawings and constructs an initial prototype from modelling clay - at this stage no colour is involved. This initial model is used to produce a master mould made from plaster of Paris. It is quite common for a model to be moulded in several pieces, which are assembled afterwards.

The master mould is then used to produce several fully-decorated prototypes for approval by the copyright holder - in Beatrix Potter's case by her original publishers, F. Warne & Co. Ltd.

Production

When the figure goes into production, the master mould is used to produce several working moulds. Each of these is filled with slip (liquid clay) and then left for a time. The moisture from the slip is gradually absorbed into the mould, resulting in the model body starting to harden from the outside inwards.

Once the slip has hardened to a suitable thickness (remember that storybook figurines are hollow), the remaining slip is poured out of the mould, which is then carefully removed from the model body.

Beswick Beatrix Potter Mrs Rabbit and Bunnies
Note the publisher's name, F Warne & Co Ltd, on the base of these hollow figurines.

If the figure is being made in more than one part, the parts are now assembled, using slip as an adhesive. The resultant piece is carefully wiped with a sponge to remove any signs of joins and is left to dry out.

Firing & Decoration

Beswick Beatrix Potter Mrs Tiggy Winkle The figurine's first firing is in the biscuit kiln - producing a hardened but undecorated figurine, ready for decoration.

Each figure is handpainted, using colours that are carefully chosen to stay true to the original illustrations. A second firing follows to fix the colour before a final coat of glaze is applied and the figure is fired in the glost kiln.

The finished result has the rich, varied colours and hard, clear glazed finish that is so characteristic of these Beswick (and Royal Albert) figurines and so beloved of collectors around the world.

Best Wishes,

Perfect Pieces

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