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    ‘The best teapot never designed’: re-engineering the Brown Betty

    McIntyre, Ian Downing (2023) ‘The best teapot never designed’: re-engineering the Brown Betty. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    This thesis plots a practice-based Collaborative Doctoral Award working in partnership with York Art Gallery, the British Ceramics Biennial, Manchester School of Art and the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics manufacturer Cauldon Ceramics. The project was animated by a central question: ‘How can holistic design practices of the individual designer-maker inform and enhance the design aesthetics and design practices of the industrial ceramic manufacturer?’ This thesis is an investigation of the phenomenon of the individual designer-maker and their potential to act as a catalyst for industrial ceramic innovation. The centring of practice recognises that the maker’s professional skills and expertise produce a specific valuable contribution to knowledge creation. I understand my role within this research as a hybrid ‘designer-practitioner-researcher’ (Vaughan, 2019). Cauldon Ceramics is the last remaining producer of the Brown Betty teapot – a traditional design that originated in Stoke-on-Trent in the mid-eighteenth century. Once produced in the millions per year, it has been in decline since the late 1970s. Through a process of primary archival research, literature reviews, site visits, material experimentation and prototyping, as well as public discourse in the form of exhibitions, talks and publications, I identified Cauldon Ceramics as an appropriate manufacturer to test a live case study. My research ascertained that the Brown Betty should be revitalised for a number of reasons: A Brown Betty made in Staffordshire has cultural significance; There is a lack of historical and contemporary understanding of the object and inconsistencies within the available literature; The design details of the product itself have deteriorated over the last 40 years indicating that the Brown Betty has both evolved and deteriorated; The cultural significance of the object is being lost in the design, manufacture and promotion of both the contemporary Staffordshire made versions and overseas imported versions. During this practice-based research I have re-discovered a forgotten innovative past, re-defined the cultural significance of the Brown Betty, identified historical precedents in the design and manufacturing of the object, developed new markets, and cultivated and galvanised stakeholders. I have re-engineered and re-launched the object through a process of re-design and the re-introduction of innovative historical patents, contemporary design details and new manufacturing processes. The result is a revitalised object named the ‘Re-engineered Brown Betty’ teapot.

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