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Breakfast Set, late 1950s, Lucie Rie © Estate of Lucie Rie. Courtesy of Crafts Study Centre, University for the Creative Arts

Ever since the introduction of tea and coffee to Britain in the seventeenth century, tea and coffee services have formed an important part of ceramic factory production. At first glance, these sets seem a less suitable format for the studio potter. The creation of a large number of pieces, usually identical to one another in shape and size, seems particularly suited to mass manufacture. But Studio Potters did make sets, sometimes as a design challenge, and sometimes for much-needed income. They tried to balance the efficiency of repetition with a lively form, thereby meeting industry halfway.

The individualism prized by Studio Potters was soon recognised as a desirable quality by commercial firms, such as Wedgwood, who employed ‘signature designers’ such as Keith Murray and Susie Cooper. Murray’s designs for Wedgwood were cast in moulds to enable mass-production but evoke the throwing lines of ceramics created by hand on the wheel.

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