Architectural Ceramics Skills Saved by Experienced Team

Jon Wilson and Steve Allen, both former employees of a specialist clay building products manufacturer, have set up Darwen Terracotta Limited and in the process been able to re-employ 25 skilled and experienced craftspeople in the new business. Their former employer, Shaws of Darwen, closed its terracotta and faience business to concentrate on their domestic sink range, leading to skills that could have been lost forever.

Jon explains, “Steve and I have over 50 years combined experience in this industry having worked on some of the most prestigious building projects in both the UK and USA. All of our people have spent most of their working lives in this trade and preserving these skills is vital. We are a close knit team with a strong commitment by everyone to support the business and succeed together.”

 Restoration of terracotta and faience heritage buildings is a key market for the new business. They also expect that their skills in design, modelling and bespoke creative glazed ceramics will continue to attract architects and interior designers to include these materials in new-build projects.

Jon noted, “Terracotta and faience is often thought of as a traditional material used in the Victorian period and following the architectural styles of the day up to the middle of the last century. The last ten years have seen a great revival of the material, giving the designer huge creative freedom due to the almost limitless possibilities in shape, colour and texture.”

Grayson Perry’s creation, A House for Essex, one of the last projects that the team completed while at Shaws, displays the range of possibilities that faience can offer. Designed by Grayson, working with FAT Architects, this was built for Living Architecture, celebrating the life of a fictional character, Julie, and is designed to inspire creativity with its bold use of colour and style.

Other projects of note that the team have worked on include the Holborn Museum for Eric Parry, Eagle Place and New Bond Street with Quadrant 3 for the Crown Estate and Dixon Jones Architects, the latter being the largest UK project for hand-made faience for many years.