Valentine Clays has recently been supporting The Clay Foundation with running an education project called Flower Factory Field as part of commemorations for World War One, working with young people from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Participants are exploring the history of ceramic flower-making within the Staffordshire Potteries, making the connection between the ceramic industry and the Spode archived material related to the involvement of women pottery workers during WW1.

Young people are gaining new heritage skills in making bone china flowers under the instruction of one of Stoke-on-Trent’s remaining skilled flower makers – Rita Floyd. Many of these flowers are contributing to the Resonate exhibition at this year’s British Ceramics Biennial festival in the former Spode factory site.

Volunteers from Spode Museum Trust and former Spode factory workers, who are print specialists, have made handmade prints from the engraved copper plates that were used during 1914-1918 at Spode. They are demonstrating the process of using them with 600 local students so they have first hand experience of transferring tissue print to biscuit fired clay dog tags.

“Working with an artist adds value to our art work, it also gives our pupils the opportunity to ask about life and work as an artist – this is particularly useful to our Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils.”
Mrs E Holford, Deputy Head Teacher, Watermill School

“They now know the link between the ‘Potters’ Stoke City and the local area. We will be learning about local artists and history next term so this was an excellent grounding.”
Mrs J Wardle Year 4 Teacher, Harpfields Academy

“To see so many young people engage with clay and create something using their own hands has been inspiring. The history of Stoke On Trent is now firmly engrained with the school children that are proud of their City’s pottery talent. 600 white bone china flower and printed ceramic dog tags have been made with a 1914 Spode pattern to signify the soldiers who died from the North Staffordshire Regiment in WW1. The young people have got clay under their fingernails and learnt heritage skills that they are now able to share within their peer group. Their understanding of Stoke’s rich heritage is evident though the wonderful ceramic outcomes created this autumn.”
Katie Leonard HLF Education Project Manager

An online clay flower making tutorial video will be created to enable this local traditional skill to be shared with a wider audience to preserve this unique ceramics process.

Flower Factory Field started in July 2015 and will run until February 2016. Valentine Clays has supported the project by supplying clay for the flower-making workshops. The grant has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund – There and Now World War 1 programme.