Mould Store: Exploring the Preservation of the Former Spode Factory's Post-Industrial Heritage Through Digital Technologies

Neil Brownsword, Tim Weyrich, Karina Rodriguez Echavarria

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


World renowned for its perfection of Bone China and underglaze blue printing techniques, the historic Spode Works in Stoke-on-Trent was one of the few ceramic manufactories in Britain to have operated continuously on its original site until the company ceased trading in 2008 . In 1987 the legacy of this factory was assigned to the Spode Museum Trust, which currently houses many artefacts associated with the reproduction of the company’s vast design archive spanning over two centuries. Yet, prior to the factory’s closure there was an oversight not to accession the majority of factory’s historic moulds due to their perceived value and the sheer space required to house such material. As ‘by-products’ of ceramic manufacture, moulds are rarely valued or preserved for prosperity; the ‘finished’ ceramic artefact has always taken priority over those objects associated with labour of mass-production. Yet as tools that revolutionised the mechanical reproduction of decorative and functional artefacts, they can illuminate the evolution of important technological and stylistic changes in design and industry that remain relatively under-researched. As the former Spode site is currently in the process of regeneration and its buildings repurposed, only a small percentage of this material has been recommended for retention, with the remainder at risk of disposal.
Apart from the time pressures from agencies wishing to regenerate the site, the challenges that exist for the potential documentation of such a sheer volume of material, led to a feasibility study being conducted by a team of interdisciplinary academics in July 2018. The aim of this study was to determine the most appropriate tools for the scanning process and devise an effective workflow system to minimise cost and time. A core sample of mould typologies, materials and technologies from c1850 onwards, were 3D scanned based upon moulds selected for retention by Stoke-on-Trent City Councils Archaeology Service. In the event of pending disposal, 3D scanning and photogrammetry has the ability to preserve the shape of an artefact for prosperity, and if needs be, facilitate the physical reproduction of both negative and ‘positive’ ceramic shapes.
This session will present work-in-progress, detailing the digital documentation of the ceramic moulds using 3D technologies. The final aim of the project is to archive a large selection of moulds typologies based upon factors such as ‘age, uniqueness, and value in terms of technological developments and the production process’. To further understanding into the complexities of industrial craft practices, the resultant database also aims to elucidate material and craft knowledge embodied within such objects. The re-imagining of this data through a contemporary artistic response, that integrates the use of digital technology and traditional know-how will also be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
EventCelebrating Reproductions: Past, Present and Future - Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Jan 201919 Jan 2019


ConferenceCelebrating Reproductions: Past, Present and Future
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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