South East Wales

Nantgarw Chinaworks: Donations restart porcelain making

collection of porcelain plates made at Nantgarw Chinaworks Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image caption There are few remaining examples of the porcelain and most are held in collections at National Museum of Wales and London's V&A

Porcelain production using the 200-year-old secret recipe of what was once declared the finest porcelain ever made is to restart in south Wales.

A crowdfunding campaign has raised £15,000 to kick-start the project at Nantgarw Chinaworks, near Caerphilly.

Items made there from 1817 were highly revered for their translucent appearance, but the factory closed just four years later.

Now experts believe they have uncovered the recipe and are preparing to use it.

The campaign, which has also been backed by an Arts Council of Wales grant, has 119 supporters so far.

Donors have contributed varying amounts and will receive "rewards" ranging from museum tours to one of the first new pieces to be fired.

Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image caption Renowned porcelain expert Henry Sandon (pictured) has described Nantgarw porcelain as one of the finest in the world

The drive to restart production at the site, which is now a museum, was borne out of the desire to recreate artist and potter William Billingsley's original recipe.

Once considered the whitest, finest and most translucent porcelain ever made, crockery and decorative items made at the chinaworks were fired in bottle kilns before being sold to royalty and aristocracy.

But the product was very difficult to fire, leading to losses of up to 90% and the ultimate closure of the works in 1821.

Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks museum
Image caption The factory switched to making stoneware bottles and earthenware until it closed in 1920, before later reopening as a museum
Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image caption A recipe as close to the original as possible will be used to make contemporary pieces

The exact formula and production methods have remained unknown for 200 years, but researchers believe they have identified the ingredients and a process which is "pretty close" to the original.

A team, including resident artists, clay manufacturers, chemists, university specialists, mould makers and porcelain experts, will begin testing it out once new equipment, including kilns, have arrived.

Charles Fountain, project manager at Nantgarw Chinaworks, said work to produce the rewards for donors would begin in autumn with production on new pieces expected to start next year.

"We have a starting point for a recipe we feel is pretty close, [but] until we start making it and testing it, we won't know how accurate it is," he said.

"The long-term objective is not to be reproducing original pieces but to commission contemporary artists to make new works," he added.

"Because of its attributes, such as it's translucency, it lends itself to a lot of contemporary designs such as lighting.

"We are very, very grateful for all the support that we have had from the public."

Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image caption Donor rewards include everything from museum tours and items of jewellery such as this one
Image copyright Nantgarw Chinaworks Museum
Image caption Resident artists such as Gareth Nash will help test the recipe

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