Date: October 25, 2012 | Story: Tiffany Burgess | Styling: Mandy Keener |
For Lewis Morris, seeking out and collecting rare, vintage pieces is a way of life. As a second-generation antiques dealer and co-owner of Morris Antiques in Keo, he has spent his life searching both near and far for one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture, glassware and other collectibles. However, there’s one collection that immediately caught his eye and has managed to hold his attention for more than 30 years—Wedgwood’s Jasperware.
These unglazed stoneware pieces were originally created by Josiah Wedgwood of England and were first available publicly in 1775. When Wedgwood began his work the scenes depicted were mainly from Greek mythology. However, as time passed the designs evolved to include everyone from George Washington to Princess Diana. The iconic white reliefs appear on a variety of tabletop and service pieces in a range of colors including light blue, dark blue, yellow, green, crimson, lilac (which often has more of a rosy pink appearance) and even black. While numerous options were produced, the dark blue background quickly became the most popular and is therefore the most common and easiest to find.
Like many collectors, Morris found his first piece while traveling. “My family and I would occasionally go on buying trips in England and Western Europe for our shop. In the early 1980s we were there and I saw my first piece of old, original Wedgwood. It immediately drew my eye and since then I have been picking up pieces whenever I get the opportunity,” says Morris. That first piece was a dark blue biscuit jar, or as we call them in America—cookie jars. While this piece is fairly common, it led to a passion for Jasperware and a curiosity to seek out some of the pattern’s more unusual finds.
“After I purchased a few pieces and began to do a little research, I decided to collect older pieces even though Wedgwood’s Jasperware is still produced today. Maybe it was my love of antiques, but I wanted to focus on collecting pieces that were marked only with the ’Wedgwood‘ stamp, which meant they were produced before 1891, making them harder to find and more valuable,” says Morris.
Not too long after this decision, Morris and his family visited Paris and spent some time in the iconic flea markets. He recalls seeing a large green jardinière while shopping. “I remember thinking, please don’t let that be marked ‘Wedgwood’ only,” he laughs, “because I knew I was going to have to find a way to stuff it into my carry on.” As luck would have it the piece was from this period and it is now proudly displayed in his home.
While Morris likes all colors of Jasperware, he is eager to add more large pieces to his collection. “Larger pieces that are taller than eight inches are harder to find. Simply because of their size they are more valuable,” he notes. He would particularly like to find a large Portland vase, which has small handles on either side of the opening and is considered to be a signature piece in any collection. Tri-color pieces, which may have areas featuring blue, yellow, green or any other Jasperware color, are also prized possessions among collectors.
While his focus lies on finding pieces made prior to 1891, Morris notes the beauty and strong tradition still carried on in the collectibles produced today. “I think everyone should collect something. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something you like and enjoy. It gives you something to hunt for on vacations and trips, plus you never know what you might find,” he concludes.