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Contemporary English Victorian-style Tea Party in the Grounds of Middleport Pottery

Saturday 21 August 2021 10am-4pm, Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent

Traditional food moulds from the collection of Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent will take centre stage this summer, as artist Nuala Clooney reimagines traditional pottery designs and techniques at a public tea party.

Working in partnership with members of the local community, Nuala has used original dessert moulds from Middleport’s archive to create new artworks, and to shine a light on the work of early 20th century ceramic designer, Charlotte Rhead.

The project will culminate in a tea party at Middleport Pottery on Saturday 21 August.

“I’ve been working with Middleport over the last year and during that time I’ve been able to explore the museum’s archive of moulds, which have been used to produce the famous Burleigh ceramics since the early 20th century. I’ve also been inspired by the designs of ceramic artist Charlotte Rhead, who was born locally and worked at the pottery between 1926 and 1931, and whose work is often overlooked,” explained Nuala Clooney.

Middleport is the home of ‘Burleigh’ pottery and is the UK’s last working Victorian pottery in continuous production, producing ceramics for more than 130 years on site. Burleigh still uses traditional skills and techniques, and Middleport Pottery houses an archive of their historic designs and moulds.

Using a 3D scan of an original dessert mould from Burleigh’s collection, Nuala has led workshops with members of the local community – including Root n Fruit Community Garden and Middleport Matters Community Trust - to create new designs for jelly moulds, inspired by Charlotte Rhead’s colourful fruit and flower motifs. The new work combines traditional methods of slip-casting with 3D scanning technology.

On 21 August Middleport will host a tea party with food demonstrations and a display of the new jelly mould designs created by Nuala and members of the public.

Rebecca Loughead, Heritage and Learning Manager at Middleport Pottery, said: “Nuala’s artwork picks up on parts of our collection which we don’t shout about enough and I hope that when people come along in August they’ll see how playful, fun and colourful our local history can be.”

Nuala Clooney added: “I often use food in my practice and it’s proven to be a wonderful way of getting people engaged with Middleport, and for us to create things together as a community.”

The project is part of Meeting Point, a programme led by contemporary art specialists Arts&Heritage ( Meeting Point presents artworks in unexpected places and supports small and medium scale museums to commission artists, forging new relationships between the contemporary arts and heritage sectors.

For this round of the programme, leading artists have been partnered with museums in the Midlands to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.

Rebecca Loughead said: “It’s been so great to have Arts&Heritage’s help and guidance. It can be daunting when the museum world and the arts world meet, but Arts&Heritage’s oversight has been so valuable and has given us the agency and the skills we need to work again with contemporary artists in the future.”

Admission to the event is free but tickets need to be booked in advance at