A fiery British ceramicist for the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II
Stoke-on-Trent: In his ceramics studio, Simon Willis proudly displays the dinnerware service he created for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, dreaming it would end up in the monarch’s personal collection.
“It’s an event that will never happen again, we won’t have the chance to see another queen or another king on the throne for 70 years. So it’s a big deal,” he said. told AFP.
Willis owns Goviers in Stoke-on-Trent, central England, specializing in the manufacture of commemorative ceramics for over 30 years.
The good thing about ceramics is that… whatever is produced today, if taken care of, will still be there when my son is probably gone. We produce something that is inherently there forever.
– Simon Willis, owner of Goviers in Stoke-on-Trent
Elizabeth became queen on February 6, 1952, and June will be the focal point of public celebrations to mark her unprecedented 70-year reign.
To celebrate the occasion, Goviers has been offering a range of “Platinum Jubilee” cups and plates since last July with traditional English floral motifs.
The workmanship is meticulous, with each colorful motif in the design being individually printed onto a transfer and applied by hand to the fine bone china cups and plates.
A ceramist adds the final golden touches to the piece, which is then fired to prepare it for sale.
From the rough cut to the final touches of paint, everything is made in Stoke-on-Trent, also known as The Potteries.
The city has been renowned for its pottery for centuries, taking advantage of local clay to make ceramics and coal deposits to fire them.
It became the world center of pottery production around 1800, thriving for decades before falling into steep decline, with factories closing and relocating to Asia.
“Very English tradition”
“Much of the manufacturing has gone overseas,” due to production costs, the 58-year-old owner said.
But these factories do not produce jubilee coins because “they see that the market is not big enough for them”, he added.
Willis fell into the ceramic industry after studying economics, specializing in the automotive industry.
Since most of his clients are British collectors, he didn’t hesitate to create a new Jubilee line.
“They probably have plates to celebrate the Queen’s wedding, or the coronation, all those other events,” he said of his clientele.
“They’re just a tradition I guess, it’s very English.”
Sold between #45 ($59, 54 euros) for a small cup and #175 for a large plate, Goviers tableware is not intended to be used as a simple kitchen utensil.
Instead, it is intended to be displayed alongside other commemorative ceramics.
“The UK ceramics industry has always been good at marking these occasions, big or small,” said Willis.
“The great thing about ceramics is that… whatever is produced today, if taken care of, will still be there when my son is probably gone.
“We produce something that is inherently there forever,” he added.
Memorabilia dedicated to the popular queen, who turns 96 next month, and the wider royal family are commonly deployed to mark every birth, wedding and celebration.
These souvenirs generated nearly $200 million in revenue during the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, with five million commemorative mugs and ceramics sold, according to the UK’s Center for Retail Trade.
Four days of public festivities are planned for early June, including a military parade, a big concert and thousands of street parties across the country.
Despite Brexit and the pandemic, tourists are expected in droves.
Goviers only expects to sell a few hundred cups and plates, but his boss hopes his tableware will be remembered.
“It’s kind of special to do something that’s associated with a royal event, a big event…for an occasion that’s been celebrated all over the world,” Willis said.
He is particularly keen to impress a potential client.
“We know the Queen obviously has a huge collection of ceramics. But some of the things we’ve done may well fall into Her Majesty’s hands,” he added.