I first came across Paul Bishop and his amazing collection of ceramics in January 2011 at the Birmingham Interiors Show. He was exhibiting a wonderful array of strange gothic table wear and quirky ornaments in The Designers Block. I must say I’ve fallen in love with The New English Ceramic Collection and totally mesmerised by the fine detail of the hand painted pottery. This collection with blow your mind as functional home ware and as art!
The New English was founded in February 2009 by leading Innovator Paul Bishop and his wife Judith. Having spent the previous 14 years developing a consulting firm which existed to help others do things differently, and following a series road accident which caused Paul to reassess his life, he and Judith sold their business by means of an MBO and sought to find a new opportunity to practice what they had preached, to put their money (literally) where there mouths had been.
Born and bred in Stoke on Trent and with ceramics as part of his cultural upbringing, Paul formed The New English as a result of two things; a sadness at the apparently never-ending stream of company closures within the Potteries and a growing frustration with the insular, backward looking approach to product design (which he felt was a significant contributory factor in the first).
“Increasingly people are seeking out individual pieces, the accents or highlights that say something about themselves and their tastes and lifestyles.”
Paul also believed that a new market opportunity was emerging, one for contemporary ceramic products which reflected today’s lifestyles and cultural context but which had the qualities, craftsmanship, and integrity that made in (Stoke on Trent) England conveys.
Having also spent ten years as a founder and key protagonist in the Lord Stafford Innovation awards, Paul believed passionately in the exciting possibilities that fresh young design graduates brought to manufacturing businesses.
The dinner service is dead, long live the dinner service
People just don’t buy dinner services the way they used to. Tastes have changed and the availability of low cost ceramics and contemporary tableware from stores such as Ikea have meant that markets are seeking new ideas.
Increasingly people are seeking out individual pieces, the accents or highlights that say something about themselves and their tastes and lifestyles. These are legacy pieces, things that they will keep and treasure, not throw away the second they change the colour scheme in their kitchen – and with this as a backdrop, The New English believe that the rules for ceramics companies have changed.
“The New English brings together Stoke on Trent’s 250 year heritage of manufacturing skills”
Customers need pieces which work on a stand alone basis as well as part of a bigger set, they need products which are distinctive and contemporary, and which are embedded with the traditional values that large volume mass-produced ‘anonymous’ products can never deliver. This is where The New English fits in.
Why The New English?
The New English brings together Stoke on Trent’s 250 year heritage of manufacturing skills and techniques with the brightest of today’s design talent. The New English sets out to create products which surprise, soothe and make people smile and as such, deliberately seeks use trends in fashion, art, music and contemporary culture as its influences and reference points, rather than the products currently available in the marketplace. The antithesis of ‘me too’ thinking.
Built on a business model in which fast and efficient new product development and strong contemporary branding are the critical components, The New English seeks to be a shot in the arm for ceramics industry whilst also seeking to re-energise existing table top and gift buyers seeing new ideas and thinking, all this alongside a clear aim of opening up this market to a new customer for whom traditional products do not resonate. You can see the whole collection on Flickr CLICK HERE!
“By working with Staffordshire University’s MA ceramic design students, we are able to tap into a wonderful pool of creativity”
Englishness – a critical component of the proposition
‘Englishness’ is not about parochialism or insularity, it is a design ethos. Ours is an Englishness that is as much about the Sex Pistols as it is about Withering Heights, as much Damien Hirst as Turner, it about a creative approach based on attention to detail, a sense of humour and a willingness to step outside the conventional comfort of sameness in a desire to create beautiful, long-lasting products which truly resonate with a contemporary lifestyle.
We believe that Englishness is a valuable competitive weapon, it’s a mark of quality and origin, and it is also a underexploited component of a brand. It allows us to be who we are. As we are based in Stoke on Trent, which can never have the cachet of Milan, Paris or Tokyo, Englishness allows us to be true to our roots and display a real sense of integrity and value – believable and real.
A mission to support new designers and sponsor new talent
By working with Staffordshire University’s MA ceramic design students, alongside other bright creative talent from around the world we are able to both tap into a wonderful pool of creativity, but also to help guide and shape the career development of the young designers to the extent that they are better prepared to take on the challenges that life as a professional designer represents.
Unlike the majority of clients our aim is to liberate their ability to express themselves, we are not interested in interpreting what we already know – we want to tap into their outlook on the world and are happy to support them as they develop it.
Images source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenewenglish
Words by Paul Bishop