River Tees Rediscovered Willow Pattern Engagement Launched

164 individual engagements, 90 plates made

And that’s just the first of five community launches planned for the River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership.

River Tees Rediscovered Willow Pattern Plates

Working with Middlesbrough born artist Emily Hesse, regular Tees Valley Arts contributor and artist Adrian Moule, we facilitated a collaboration that created the River Tees Rediscovered Willow Pattern Plate engagement.

By reflecting on the long history of pottery production in the Tees Valley and, in particular, it’s instrumental role in the development of Middlesbrough as a town through the establishment of the Middlesbrough Pottery in 1831. We provided the means to create an artistic intervention that would enable people to both express themselves and create something intrinsically useful.

The Willow Pattern is a distinctive and elaborate pattern developed by Thomas Minton in around 1790 and was an English imitation of Chinese porcelain imported during the mid-eighteenth century. Mostly blue and white, though other colours were used, it always featured both a river, a bridge and a person.

Examples of the pottery, with the willow pattern, produced by Middlesbrough Pottery are important enough to be included in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum:

Pickle Dish by Middlesbrough Pottery in the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London. This credit line represents the ‘Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum’ (a non-departmental public body established by the National Heritage Act 1983.)

Emily and Adrian wanted people to realise their memories, their vision, their thoughts of the river, whilst creating something they could take home and eat off.

Middlesbrough Pottery Willow Plate
Middlesbrough Pottery Willow Plate, loaned from the private collection of James Beighton

We were fortunate enough to have a genuine Middlesbrough Pottery plate on hand to give inspiration to the participants thanks to the generous support of project volunteer James Beighton, former senior curator of mima and ceramics expert, who is currently undertaking a AHRC funded PhD at Teesside University.

The Process

Participants were encouraged to draw out their ideas on paper with printed circles, with photographs of plates made earlier by Emily and Adrian to use for inspiration before going on to mark their own plate with porcelain paint pens:

Plate Making Process
© James Beighton
Plates Stacking Up
© James Beighton

Couldn’t Make It? See what we got up to:

What Next?

Roll on the launch in South Park, Darlington, this Sunday, 11-3, where we hope to better our engagement numbers and let people think and realise their vision of the river in blue and white.

Followed by:

  • Ropner Park, Stockton / Saturday 28th February, 11-3pm;
  • Ward Jackson Park, Hartlepool / Saturday 14th March, 11-3pm
TVA is a participatory arts organisation, based in Middlesbrough and working across the Tees Valley, helping people change and improve their lives by taking part in the arts. TVA is a small organisation which makes a big impact in imaginative and unexpected ways.