The Brit Factor - fine bone china
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
I was thrilled to be approved to use the official 'Made In Britain' trademark logo for my products recently. This involved having the provenance of my products verified which is great for me, because there are a lot of 'Fake in Britain' products around.
There has been a big increase in the number of people who are looking to buy British in recent years, especially post-Covid. A survey by madeinbritain.org reveals that two thirds (66%) of British consumers are more likely to buy more British goods post-Covid to support the economy, and 90% of people think it is important to buy more British made products.
But it can be confusing to know what’s actually made in Britain. It’s easy to shop for beautiful British designs from British designers – these can be found in abundance – and it would be easy to assume that these delightful British-looking products are made in the UK. But look carefully at the back-stamp (the information printed on the bottom of the mug) and many of these seemingly English products are made abroad and imported. One popular range featuring English woodland birds and animals are made in India. Another popular range of china featuring a distinctive bee design, for example, is ‘hand decorated in the UK’, but made in China. This means it’s brought all the way to the UK from China and then decorated in the UK, and at a glance a consumer could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking it’s made in Britain.
So what does it mean to buy British – truly British - and why does it matter?
Let's go back to the very beginnings of fine bone china in mid-18th century England. British potters attempting to make hard porcelain discovered that adding bone ash to the mix increased the strength and durability of their china. From 1747 this became standard practice at the Bow Porcelain factory in London and spread to some other English factories. The version of fine bone china we know today was developed by Josiah Spode in the early 1790s in Stoke on Trent.
Until the mid-20th century, fine bone china was exclusively English, with the majority of this type of China made in the pottery district in Stoke on Trent. Other countries began production of bone china in the 20th century, including Japan, Russia and India, with China now being the largest producer of fine bone china in the world.
I'm proud to support British manufacturing and have my mugs made at the birthplace of fine bone china at a pottery in Stoke on Trent, where they have made fine bone china since 1888 – www.duchess-china.co.uk - a true heritage, British company. I’m incredibly proud of the quality, craftsmanship and history behind every single mug that I sell, and I love the fact that I, and all my customers, are supporting the long tradition of Staffordshire bone china made in Stoke on Trent.
Shipping bone china to the UK from a pottery in India takes about 20 days and 7,059 miles.
Shipping products to the UK from China takes between 6-8 weeks door to door, and a whopping 11,866 miles!!! That’s a LONG, long way for a mug to travel.
Compare that with just 3 hours and 200 miles to transport these British mugs from Stoke on Trent to my studio in Sevenoaks, Kent.
That’s 11,666 fewer miles than a mug made in, and shipped from China.
That’s an ENORMOUS difference in the carbon footprint and the amount of pollution emitted in transport alone. When you consider that not only are products from my pottery made in the UK, but all all components that go into making the china are also sourced in the UK, this makes them fully sustainable, less polluting and better for the planet.
Given the choice between something that has had to be shipped halfway across the planet and something that’s made a couple of counties away it’s a no-brainer for anyone conscious of the environment and wishing to make positive choices.
All people across the planet need employment and a good income, but by supporting local British people in British industries - especially smaller family businesses - we support local economies. The more people who are in employment locally the better for the country as a whole, and in turn, those British workers will be spending their hard-earned wages in the UK.
There is a handmade element to these mugs – it’s not all machines and industrial methods. 20 pairs of hands can be involved with the making of each mug, with handles made and attached by hand, as well as the artwork which is silkscreen printed onto decals (transfers) and applied by hand. I'm pleased my products have the human touch.
Ethical and environmental standards
Trust and quality are also factors in buying British, when it comes to safety and quality regulations. UK factories have to meet some of the highest pollution control standards in the world, and UK workplace standards are better for workers than those in many other countries where similar products are made.
Last but not least, for me it is all about the English garden. Personally speaking this incorporates both the beauty and tradition of the English landscape, along with the pretty cottage style of garden espoused by Gertrude Jekyll. A profusion of pretty flowers, climbers on trellises and walls, bees and butterflies, and a friendly robin perching on a spade handle. For me a garden has to include somewhere to sit for a good cup of tea, a beautiful patch of nature in our own back gardens. If this is what I celebrate and convey, there is no question that I would have my products made anywhere other than the home of fine bone china in the UK where I can source the very best quality china.
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