Moorcroft bowls have been collectors' favourites for some time now, but that does not mean there are no new Moorcroft collectors coming onto the scene. In fact, the beauty and quality of Moorcroft pieces make them a tempting buy for dedicated collectors and casual buyers alike. Of course, a new Moorcroft collector needs to find out a bit of background, such as what Moorcroft bowls actually are and what the history of Moorcroft pottery is, but there is still more of the picture to uncover.
There are five main considerations the buyer should get into the habit of making, beginning with what is the point of the purchase. After all, a casual buyer looking for a pretty bowl is going to have very different interests than a serious collector looking to make a financially sound investment. Recognising the design and identifying the quality of the piece are also important. By keeping these things in mind while shopping, the buyer can be confident of finding a good price on a purchase to be proud of.
Of course, the buyer needs to know what Moorcroft actually sells and what makes Moorcroft pottery special. Understanding something of the history of the company is also important. With this background, it is easier to put any given Moorcroft bowl in context.
Moorcroft produces a wide variety of pieces, including bowls, vases , and even jugs . The company is famous for its art pottery, although Moorcroft has also made practical tableware at times. Pottery is a type of ceramic distinct from china or porcelain in being generally thicker and heavier. Moorcroft art designs generally feature simple shapes with smooth, clean lines, and vibrant, richly coloured, shiny surfaces. Detailed floral motifs, often clearly recognisable to a botanist's eye, are common.
Modern Moorcroft pieces are hand-decorated using the tube lining method, in which the pattern is first drawn on with thin lines of wet clay lain down with tubes, much the same way icing is piped onto a cake. The piece is then painted, fired, coated in a clear glaze, and fired again. Although Moorcroft has not always used exactly the same method, the colours have always been distinctively vibrant, the designs always skilled and bold, and the labour-intensive process has always ensured that no two pieces are exactly alike.
William Moorcroft got his start as a designer for James Macintyre and Co, Ltd, a Staffordshire pottery company. The Moorcroft pottery tradition began at Macintyre. In 1913, William Moorcroft founded his own company, where he continued as designer until passing the responsibility to his son, Walter Moorcroft, in 1945. The Moorcroft company did very well, winning many prizes and even receiving a Royal warrant, but eventually ran into financial problems in the early 1980s.
The company went through several changes of ownership and made an unsuccessful attempt to shift to mass production. In the late 80s, Walter Moorcroft passed the senior designer position to first Sally Tuffin, who then passed it to Rachel Bishop, although Mr Moorcroft remained involved until 1999. The company has recovered from its difficulties, and is now owned by the Edwards family, and uses several designers through the Moorcroft Design Studio, though the Moorcroft company itself is generally said to have had only for senior designers: the two Moorcroft men, and Sally Tuffin and Rachel Bishop.
There are five major considerations to keep in mind when buying Moorcroft pottery. Asking these questions helps the buyer focus on pieces that have the quality he or she really wants. Once a buyer gets more experienced, thinking about these things becomes more automatic and deliberately asking these five questions about every Moorcroft bowl is no longer necessary.
For some buyers the point of buying Moorcroft pottery is to add to a serious collection or even to find a piece that can be resold for a profit. Other people simply want to buy a pretty bowl. How a person goes about shopping depends on what the goal of the shopping trip really is. Authenticity is of critical importance to a serious collector, and of course a person interested in reselling must pay attention to market value, and that means finding pieces that have not been damaged and restored. A casual buyer might not actually care if a piece has a low value for collectors, as long as the price is fair and the piece is appealing. Someone who intends to use the bowl does need to think about strength, however, as a damaged piece is more likely to break.
Estimating the collector's value of a piece, not to mention gauging its authenticity, begins with knowing which of the Moorcroft designs the piece belongs to. Moorcroft pottery has changed alot over the years as the company has gone through several different designers and many different designs. Different manufacturing processes have been used over the years, and the company has also both followed and led changing public tastes. A Moorcroft piece is properly identified by its designer, its design, and by the type of colouring process used. Once a buyer becomes familiar with what a given type of Moorcroft bowl should look like and what maker's marks or labels it should carry, it is easier to spot both rare and potentially valuable variations and the types of mistakes made by forgers.
While Moorcroft pottery is known for its excellent workmanship, not all Moorcroft pieces are equal. The company has made a practice of selling factory seconds at a discount, and has always clearly marked seconds as such, but seconds are sometimes resold as first quality pieces. While disreputable people are out there, it is much more likely that such mislabelling is accidental. The buyer should be prepared to examine the piece, if not in person, than at least by examining a photograph of the bottom of the piece. If an online seller does not offer such a photograph, ask for one.
The Moorcroft company has used several methods of marking seconds over the years, including both a silver line running through the maker's mark on the bottom and a red dot on the bottom. Sometimes a grading system is used to indicate that a piece is not perfect, but is still better than a typical second, and so more marks might be used. Occasionally, someone tries to remove these marks in order to sell a piece for a higher price; the current seller may not know that this has occurred. With a little practice, the buyer should be able to spot this sort of tampering.
There is nothing wrong with buying a second, as long as the price is fair and the piece meets the buyer's needs. Often, the defect that earned the piece second status is not even detectable by an untrained person. This comes back to what the point of the purchase is: a second has a lower resale value, but a casual buyer does not necessarily care. Buyers finding a mislabelled second should always tactfully inform the seller, who may appreciate an innocent mistake being corrected.
Pottery, by its nature, is delicate. A chip or a crack lowers the value of a piece and makes it more vulnerable to future damage. Broken pottery edges can also be sharp, so damaged bowls are sometimes dangerous to handle. Not all sellers are eager to volunteer the fact that a bowl has some minor damage, but any reputable seller answers honestly if asked.
It is possible to restore damaged pottery, and there are even companies that specialise in repairing Moorcroft pottery. A good restorer can fix a completely shattered bowl, and can make the repair all but undetectable. But the buyer should still know that the piece has been damaged in the past, because even a well-restored bowl is not as strong or as valuable as one that has never been damaged. Again, the seller may not know that the piece was restored, so the buyer should take responsibility for checking.
Often the only clues of restoration are subtle differences in texture, sheen, colour, or temperature. When buying online, if the seller does not know the status of a piece, the buyer can ask the seller to look for specific signs on his or her behalf. Some buyers are happy to buy a less than perfect piece, as long as the price is fair.
There are fake Moorcrofts on the market; some imitations are now genuine antiques in their own right. Again, some buyers might not realise that the piece they are selling is not a real Moorcroft, if they bought it mislabelled in turn. This is where familiarity with the style and history of the Moorcroft company becomes really important, because the clearest mark of a potential forgery is a detail that does not match. For example, a bowl whose colour pattern belongs to one Moorcroft design but whose shape belongs to another is probably a forgery.
Poor workmanship, watery-looking colour, or the use of materials and techniques Moorcroft has not used are all also warning signs. If something does not seem quite right, do some research on the design and ask the seller about the history of the piece. A casual buyer might decide to continue with the purchase, if the seller made an innocent mistake and agrees to lower the price. After all, the bowl could be quite pretty, even if it is not a Moorcroft.
The buyer could use a few tips on how to find Moorcroft pottery on eBay and how to negotiate the buying process. The Advanced Search option is a very quick way to search eBay for a very specific item, but to browse around and see what is available, use a simple search. Type a generalised term, such as ' Moorcroft bowls ' into the search box and then use the menu options to narrow the results to something manageable.
An important step in making the buying process go smoothly is simply to read through the listing again before buying. This helps avoid buying the wrong item by mistake. Otherwise, communicate with the seller. There is a contact link on the seller's profile page, as well as his or her return policy and feedback score. Ask the seller any questions about the Moorcroft bowl's history, quality, and condition. It is also a good idea to ask the seller to insure shipping, since pottery is, by nature, delicate.
Moorcroft pottery has become important to collectors for many reasons, but a very important reason is that this style is beautiful. Bright, rich colour and complex, creative designs make it obvious why the Moorcrofts were made potters to the Queen. No two Moorcroft pieces are exactly alike, but all of them belong to particular designs or styles. Serious collectors learn to identify all of the many different styles Moorcroft has made over the years and so can identify both unusual variations that could be worth a lot and out of place pieces that might not be genuine. An experienced buyer can tap a bowl all over with the edge of a tooth and tell from the sound whether the piece has ever been repaired. Other, more casual buyers just know what they like and they like Moorcroft bowls . There is really no wrong way to buy a piece of art pottery.