Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Indigo Enchantment.... Burleighware.

As far back as I can remember, pieces of Burleighware Blue Calico have been a visual staple in family life to the point where its unmistakable deep indigo seems to be the very essence of 'home'. In fact, the Burleigh design Calico, born in 1968, is almost a contemporary of mine and despite the company undergoing a number of ups and downs from the end of the 1990s, their ware is still much sought-after. Even though I don't at present possess any Calico myself, just the mere sight of a cup, plate or dish with its characteristic floral motive in that rich inky-blue literally pulls at ties that are almost visceral in me.
Somehow the extreme contrast of that intense, rich blue with the white sprigged leaves and speckled petals ofCalico creates a depth that is unique with a certain enamel-like relief that dazzles on the tableware. Strangely however, that same depth is not carried over to the Calico wall tiles that were born from the 2021 partnership with Craven Dunnill and nor is it replicated in the Calico Burleigh X Barneby Gates wallpaper. Furthermore, even though I love all Burleighware with its unapologetic, antiquated prettiness - for example Blue Asiatic Pheasants or Blue Regal Peacock - nothing has the same aesthetic and emotional impact as the Blue Calico.
While an initial earthenware manufacturing firm was established in 1851 in the 'Mother Town' of Stoke-on-Trent, Burslem, in The Potteries region of North Staffordshire, the two men whose names gave rise to Burleigh (Messrs Burgess and Leigh) took over in 1862 and later moved the company to Middleport Pottery, where it is still based today. The company prides itself on its continued use, and unrivalled expertise in the practice of underglaze tissue transer printing in the production process, much of which can be observed during guided tours of Middleport. This is certainly one site that I would love to visit as not only can you admire intricate skills that have remained unchanged for over 250 years, it is also possible to purchase your favourite Burleigh pieces in the factory shop!

Simplicity and Authenticity...

This time last year, I had no notion of how artificial intelligence could be relevent to the everyday life of the average being. However, over the months it has become clear that these developments in AI represent less a breakthrough, albeit unprecedented, than an actual seachange in our existence, as sci-fi becomes reality. With a pace rapidly gaining momentum, we learn of some new skill acquired by this force to be reckoned with. And yet for the moment, no one seems to be wondering about the exact nature of this force and what ultimately our relationship will be with it. Nor do many appear to be alarmed by the speed of change as everything is shifting beyond our understanding and we have no time to consider what this may actually result in or when the day of reckoning will arise. Right now, we seem to be heading down a path that I do not want to take. In fact, I want to run in the other direction entirely...
Looking at simple blossom on the blackthorn, I felt a rush of gladness to have such unadulterated natural beauty in front of me; nature in all its complex simplicity. I fear we are becoming increasingly irrelevent and redundant in an environment that will be pure artifice, far from the authenticity of the natural world that we have plundered as a mere commodity. Now we seem to be treating the essence of mankind with a similar lack of regard and respect, using human intelligence and emotion as further commodities - data - to be replicated artificially until we no longer know what is authentic and what is not.

Black Magic... Cats!

Countless black cats 'find their way' to the cat shelter each year; a euphemism for finding themselves unceremoniously dumped off and subsequently rejected for adoption due to their colour. Surely associations with witchcraft and ill omens have no weight in the supposedly enlightened 21st century? And yet with alarming regularity, I have to humour visitors' expressions of disdain - and the occasional shudder of revulsion - when faced with one of these poor creatures! Having to contain and thus control my irritation at hearing the same old boring, repetitive nonsense poured out with such self-assurance and belief in originality is tiresome, to say the least. Needless to say, the cat's 'frightening' demeanour is often cited - black as the night - along with the 'fact' that such a beast of darkness will surely bring bad luck. What can you say?
When I made the acquaintances with these two black beauties over four years ago, I had certainly no plan to add to the furry clan at home. Both had been part of a group of cats taken from an animal hoarder who had housed them in poor conditions and left them in a neglected state of health. One suffered from such extreme matted fur that I actually gasped in disbelief when I first laid eyes on him; his companion was hardly better. Little by little, with the months that passed, I began to gain their trust and eventually managed to groom them and give them the attention they deserved. Of course, as black cats they received nothing but fleeting interest from the public and the months gave way to years of life in the shelter... until last summer. Witnessing their health decline, slowly but surely, from the exposure to illness from communal living and the stress that entails, I decided to bring them home, these two perfect panthers!