Experience the unparalleled beauty of SylvaC pottery.
Born in Staffordshire's pottery heartland, these pieces marry form and function with artistic panache.
The distinct Victorian and early 20th-century aesthetics shine through in every item, from the animal figurines to the Toby Jugs.
SylvaC pottery brings together design, quality, and history in a harmonious blend.
The Origins of SylvaC
In 1894, two gentlemen named William Copestake and William Shaw set up a pottery business, Shaw and Copestake, right at the centre of England's thriving ceramics industry in Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. Although the company was later to be popularly known as SylvaC, this name didn't come into play until 1937, and pieces produced prior to this were marked ‘Silvo.'
After only a year with the company, Copestake departed and Richard Hull stepped into the fray. By 1936, Hull's son, Richard Junior, had also joined the firm, strengthening its leadership further.
In an important turn of events in 1938, Shaw and Copestake purchased Thomas Lawrence Falcon Pottery. Pieces created at both the Falcon and Sylvan (SylvaC) works bore the name ‘Falcon ware' until 1964. The company continued to flourish under the name Shaw and Copestake until 1982 when it voluntarily ceased operations.
The SylvaC Style
SylvaC is particularly known for its intricately moulded clay creations, such as animals, vases, jugs, and wall pockets. Many SylvaC items have a distinctive Victorian or early 20th-century style, even though they were created during the Art Deco period. Dogs were a favourite subject and nearly every breed found representation in pottery form. Toby Jugs, too, were created in a variety of styles, including ‘character' versions that marked events or promoted goods.
The company's decorative earthenwares usually featured one or two matt-glazed colours like green, blue, brown, or pink. The animals and tableware pieces from SylvaC are highly sought after by collectors, particularly those with the distinctive orange or green glazes.
SylvaC Today: A Continuing Legacy
Despite the fact that the Sylvan works ceased operations in 1982 and all production records were destroyed, the SylvaC brand remains in existence today. Even some vintage pottery items have been reproduced with similar backmarks, a testament to the passion of collectors who continue to gather as much information as possible about the company.
Authenticity and the SylvaC Mark
Identifying a genuine SylvaC piece can be a challenge. Until around 1937, the ‘SylvaC' name wasn't consistently impressed onto the bottom of the pottery, and many pieces remained unmarked. Shaw & Copestake also used paper or metal foil stickers to identify their products, but these often came off with use. Today, dating a piece of Sylvac pottery relies on knowledge of the different marks and stamps used in different periods.
More Than Just Pottery: The Appeal of SylvaC
SylvaC pottery represents a fascinating intersection between ceramics and sculpture. It extended pottery's remit beyond functional items and deliberately aimed to produce decorative pieces for homes and other spaces. The 1956 book ‘British Potters and Pottery Today’, cited in A-Z of Potters, noted that the animal studies from the Sylvan Works (under the SylvaC trade name) were the pride of the company due to the high degree of skill needed for both modelling and potting.
Exploring the SylvaC Spectrum
Most people associate SylvaC with orange and green matt glazes, but the company actually used a diverse palette of colours. Gloss glaze was introduced in 1970. SylvaC also became renowned for its dinnerware, such as pots shaped like vegetables with faces, and Toby/Character Jugs which were popular commemorative and advertising items.
Identifying SylvaC: The Signature Marks
From the 1920s to the '30s, SylvaC used a daisy wheel logo without the ‘SylvaC' brand name. Some of the earliest pieces, pre-1920, bore no mark at all. After 1937, SylvaC started using a more distinctive back mark, usually including the model number and, after 1938, the SylvaC brand name. This made SylvaC items much easier to identify and value. Paper and foil stickers with the SylvaC logo were also used, though these often fell off.
The SylvaC Saga Continues
The SylvaC brand name endures to this day, with some of the vintage pottery items even being reproduced with similar backmarks. Although the Sylvan works ceased trading and operations in 1982, and all related records were destroyed, avid collectors have continued their quest for knowledge, gathering as much information as possible in recent years.