Social Togetherness: Ian McIntyre in Conversation

July 16, 2020 · 0 Comments

Today we discuss the re-engineering of the classic Brown Betty teapot with designer Ian McIntyre.

What is the background to the Re-Engineered Brown Betty design?

I’ve been researching the history of the Brown Betty teapot for years as part of my PhD thesis exploring the value of craft practices within industrial production. Today the Brown Betty teapot is a much loved British design classic. We can trace the first iterations all the way back to the 1700s. It has been slowly evolving ever since then – the hands of numerous makers, rather than one single creator, are responsible for its famous form. Its design is about practicality – from the early employment of the local red Etruria Marl clay that was workable, economical and the first in Stoke-on-Trent to reliably withstand the thermal shock of boiling water, to the deep brown Rockingham glaze – developed to hide tea stains and mask imperfections made by heavy-handed craftsmen on the factory floor. This process has resulted in a utilitarian and unpretentious object that has transcended fashions and trends to become an icon of British design. 

During my research in Stoke-on-Trent, I stumbled across Cauldon Ceramics – the last remaining British manufacturer of the pot. Initially, I was interested in analysing their product and tracing their lineage – the object didn’t strike me as something that should be tampered with. But through archive research, buying up vintage Brown Betties on e-bay and rooting through trade catalogues, I realised that some of the most innovative design details had been lost over the years. So we set about re-instating them along with improving the design, which seemed in keeping with the history of its development. We’ve re-introduced lost and original features, whilst conserving all important characteristics that have been in place since the Brown Betty first emerged. A patented ‘locking lid’ and a ‘non–drip spout’ have been brought back, plus there is a subtle tweak enabling the pot to stack and store efficiently. A loose-leaf tea basket has also been added. It was important to me that the design approach was in keeping with the history of the object – driven by function and shunning style. 

Do you use at home?

We use it if more than one person is having a tea. Since the pandemic, we’ve been in the flat as a family much more and it’s had lots of use which has been nice.

Is a favourite tea or concoction/recipe you can share that makes best use of your design?

I’m very unsophisticated when it comes to tea culture – I just stick a couple of Yorkshire bags in there. I suppose this is in line with the history of the object – throughout its lifetime it’s remained affordable, utilitarian and unpretentious.

What new projects are you working on that you can share?

I’m about to launch a collection of flecked stoneware crockery with a lovely new British brand called Monoware. I’m also currently working on a new collection of objects for Cauldon which again tap into the history and utilise the qualities of the red Etruria Marl clay that they work with.

Many thanks to Ian for taking the time to speak to us, we look forward to seeing the new collections.


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