|Successor||WWRD Holdings Limited|
Number of employees
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, commonly known as Wedgwood, was a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories company founded on 1 May 1759 by English potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood. In 1987, Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Ireland-based luxury brands group. The main assets of Waterford Wedgwood were purchased in 2009 by KPS Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, and the group became known as WWRD Holdings Limited, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton". In July 2015, it was acquired by Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish consumer goods company.
At the outset, Josiah Wedgwood worked with the established potter Thomas Whieldon until 1759, when relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, which allowed him to start his own pottery business. His marriage to Sarah Wedgwood, a distant cousin with a sizable dowry, helped him launch his new venture.
In 1765, Wedgwood created a new form of creamware, a fine glazed earthenware, which impressed the then British Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who gave official permission to call it "Queen's Ware". This new form sold extremely well across Europe. In 1766, Wedgwood bought Etruria, a large Staffordshire estate, as both a home and factory site. Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately and new ceramic bodies including Black Basalt and Jasperware, both unglazed ("biscuit") stonewares.
Wedgwood's best known product is Jasperware, created to look like ancient cameo glass. It was inspired by the Portland Vase, a Roman vessel which is now a museum piece. The first jasperware colour was Portland Blue, an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples. In recognition of the importance of his pyrometric beads (pyrometer), Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. The Wedgwood Prestige collection sold replicas of the original designs, as well as modern neo-classical style jasperware.
The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware – as well as in other wares like basaltware, queensware, caneware, etc. – were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding its empire. Many motifs were taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek and Egyptian. Meanwhile, archaeological fever caught the imagination of many artists. Nothing could have been more suitable to satisfy this huge business demand than to produce replicas of ancient artefacts. Many representations of royalty, nobles and statesmen in silhouette were created, as well as political symbols. These were often set in jewellery, as well as in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture. Wedgwood has honoured American individuals and corporations as well, both historically and recently. In 1774 he employed the then 19-year-old John Flaxman as an artist, who would work for the next 12 years mostly for Wedgwood. The "Dancing Hours" may be his most well known design. Other artists known to have worked for Wedgwood include among others Lady Elizabeth Templetown, George Stubbs, Emma Crewe and Lady Diana Beauclerk.
Wedgwood had increasing success with hard paste porcelain which attempted to imitate the whiteness of tea-ware imported from China, an extremely popular product amongst high society. High transport costs and the demanding journey from the Far East meant that the supply of chinaware could not keep up with increasingly high demand. Towards the end of the 18th century other Staffordshire manufacturers introduced bone china as an alternative to translucent and delicate Chinese porcelain. In 1812 Wedgwood produced their own bone china which, though not a commercial success at first eventually became an important part of an extremely profitable business.
Josiah Wedgwood was also a patriarch of the Darwin–Wedgwood family. Many of his descendants were closely involved in the management of the company down to the time of the merger with the Waterford Company:
Enoch Wedgwood (1813–1879), a distant cousin of the first Josiah, was also a potter and founded his own firm, Wedgwood & Co, in 1860. It was taken over by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons in 1980.
In 1968, Wedgwood purchased many English potteries including Mason's Ironstone, Johnson Brothers, Royal Tuscan, William Adams & Sons, J. & G. Meakin and Crown Staffordshire. In 1979, Waterford Wedgwood purchased the Franciscan Ceramics division of Interpace in the United States. The Los Angeles plant closed in 1984 and production of the Franciscan brand was moved to Johnson Brothers in Britain. In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc, forming the company Waterford Wedgwood plc.
In 1986, Waterford Glass Group plc purchased Wedgwood plc for US$360 million, with Wedgwood delivering a 38.7 million USD profit in 1998 (while Waterford itself lost $28.9 million), after which the group was renamed Waterford Wedgwood plc. From early 1987 to early 1989, the CEO was Patrick Byrne, previously of Ford, who then became CEO of the whole group. During this time, he sold off non-core businesses and reduced the range of Wedgwood patterns from over 400 to around 240. In the late 1990s, the CEO was Brian Patterson. From 1 January 2001, the Deputy CEO was Tony O'Reilly, Junior, who was appointed CEO in November of the same year and resigned in September 2005. He was succeeded by the then-president of Wedgwood USA, Moira Gavin, up until the company went into administration in 2009.
In 2001, Wedgwood launched a collaboration with designer Jasper Conran, which started with a white fine bone china collection then expanded to include seven patterns. In March 2009, KPS Capital Partners acquired the Waterford Wedgwood group assets. Assets including Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton were placed into WWRD Holdings Limited.
On 5 January 2009, following years of financial problems at group level, and after a share placement failed during the global financial crisis of 2008, Waterford Wedgwood was placed into administration on a "going concern" basis, with 1,800 employees remaining. On 27 February 2009, Waterford Wedgwood's receiver Deloitte announced that the New York-based private equity firm KPS Capital Partners had purchased certain Irish and UK assets of Waterford Wedgwood, and the assets of its Irish and UK subsidiaries. KPS Capital Partners placed Wedgwood into a group of companies known as WWRD, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton".
In May 2015 Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home products, agreed to buy 100% of the holdings of WWRD. On 2 July 2015, the acquisition of WWRD by Fiskars Corporation was completed, including the brands Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rogaška. The acquisition was approved by the US antitrust authorities.
Wedgwood's founder wrote as early as 1774 that he wished he had preserved samples of all the company's works, and he began to do so. The first formal museum was opened in May 1906, with a curator named Isaac Cook, at the main (Etruria) works. The contents of the museum were stored for the duration of the Second World War and relaunched in a gallery at the new Barlaston factory in 1952. A new purpose-built visitor centre and museum was built in 1975 and remodelled in 1985, with pieces displayed near items from the old factory works in cabinets of similar period. A video theatre was added and a new gift shop, as well as an expanded demonstration area, where visitors could watch pottery being made. A further renovation costing £4.5 million was carried out in 2000, including access to the main factory itself.
Adjacent to the museum and visitor centre are a restaurant and tea room, serving on Wedgwood ware. The museum, managed by a dedicated trust, closed in 2000 and on 24 October 2008, it reopened in a new multimillion-pound building.
In June 2009, the Wedgwood Museum won a UK Art Fund Prize for Museums and Art Galleries for its displays of Wedgwood pottery, skills, designs and artefacts. In May 2011, the archive of the museum was inscribed in UNESCO's UK Memory of the World Register.
The collection with 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts, letters and photographs faced being sold off to help satisfy pension debts inherited when Waterford Wedgwood plc went into receivership in 2009. The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, various trusts and businesses contributed donations to purchase the collection. On December 1 2014, the collection was purchased and donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The collection will continue to be on display at the Wedgwood Museum on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Minton Archive comprises papers and drawings of the designs, manufacture and production of the defunct pottery company Mintons. It was acquired by Waterford Wedgwood in 2005 along with other assets of the Royal Doulton group. At one time it seemed the Archive would become part of the Wedgwood collection. In the event, the Archive was presented by the Art Fund to the City of Stoke-on-Trent, but it was envisaged that some material would be displayed at Barlaston as well as the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
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