Featuring better quality artware for the middle and luxury classes, Carlton first made delicate handpainted floral lines with heavy gilding to suit Victorian tastes in the 1890's. Pottery Gazette shortly proclaimed the Staffordshire firm's forte as, "... first and foremost, it's decorative appeal"; indeed, Carlton moved quickly with the latest desitgn influences, and offered a sheer variety of shapes and styles unmatched in the region.
Lustre ware dominated Carlton's luxury lines in the '20s, with Tut inspired Egyptian motifs, Art Deco lightning bolts, brilliant multi-colored birds and trees dripping with vibrant, stylized "flowers". Many of the lustre lines romanticized oriental pagodas and temples.
Carlton's lustre ware came in up to 12 bright colors, making it costly and complex to make and richly metallic in appearance, rivaling the work of Clarice Cliff. Carlton's lustre was made through the end of production in 1992; the deep maroon called Rouge Royal is perhaps the most collected color now, but almost all the pre-WWII pieces have long sold for over $100.00.
Salad Ware started a 50 year run in 1926 and would likely be a wild success if it were practical to reintroduce today. Lettuce textured plates, relish servers, and the like were accented with painted red tomatoes that popped off the dish.
Fruit shaped jam jars, cruets shaped like birds and character napkin rings quickly followed.
The success of Salad Ware at reaching a less affluent Depression era audience led to a host of other handpainted designs. Naturalistic patterns like Oak Tree, Foxglove, Apple Blossom, Buttercup and Fruit Basket were painted on cheery yellow, pink, and green backgrounds. Toast racks, egg cups, teapots, and tableware in these lines became increasingly bold aand vivid after WWII restrictions on paint use were lifted. Some were sold in colorful gift boxes, which area special find for today's collectors; and unlike the firm's lustre ware (or even most English chintz) most pieces are well under $100.00 now, despite being the most widely collected of Carlton Ware.
Only now are Carlton's stylish, post-war wares starting to attract attention. Shapes kept pace with modern design, with streamlined oval Magnolia relishes and two tone Windswept leaf plates among the line's leaders. Later successes included the Walking Ware tea set, with little legs and feet shod in primary colors, holding up what would otherwise be ordinary cups, cream & sugar, and teapot. Much post-war Carlton Ware continued to feature bright handpainted elements, but not yet as costly as earlier Carlton Ware.
Carlton Ware's fun and artful lines couldn't survive the era of low end import competition, and the firm collapsed in the late 1980's along with many other potters. Ironically, the market is moving back towards the styles they once made- at a time when there is little else to fill the void. This bodes well for people lucky enough to amass good collections o Carlton and other handpainted potteries.-George Higby
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