‘I am sorry to say the [Wedgwood] family think my beautiful designs above the heads of their public and that to begin with, something should be done safer and more understandable’
Eric Ravilious was asked to create new ceramic designs for Wedgwood from 1936 to 1940, but initially found the relationship challenging due to the company’s timid approach to new ideas. However, his commission for Edward VIII’s Coronation Mug in 1936 was a success: the first customer was Wallis Simpson, Edward’s future wife.
The Boat Race Bowl, 1938, Ravilious’s favourite work, was inspired by his own memories of the race.
Ravilious was born in 1903 and brought up in Eastbourne. He studied design at the Royal College of Art, London where his contemporaries noted his ‘extraordinary, almost Pan-like charm’.
During World War II, Ravilious served as an official war artist. In 1942, aged just 39, he was killed in Iceland while on an air-sea rescue mission.
Wartime government restrictions on ceramic manufacturers meant that many of Ravilious’s designs were only produced in the 1950s.
‘I must either give up the job or do it pretty thoroughly, and with a tactful bullying of the Wedgwood family…At the moment, their factory could be doing good pottery and they seem to be too timid to give it a trial’
(John Lake, contemporary at RCA noted) ‘he always seemed to be slightly somewhere else, as if he lived a private life.’