Fantastical creations that saved the fortunes of the Wedgwood factory 100 years ago have sold at auction for £45,000 after being consigned by a direct descendant of the family.
The Fairyland Lustre designs of Daisy Makeig-Jones were produced at Wedgwood from 1915, providing a bright escapism for collectors from the horrors of the Great War, but also a much needed financial boost to the struggling factory.
“The popularity of these designs on the other side of the Atlantic proved a real turning point for the Wedgwood factory,” said Woolley and Wallis’s Design specialist, Michael Jeffery. “They helped to crack the lucrative American market during the 1920s, which was increasingly important as Europe struggled to recover from the effects of the war.”
Top of the pieces included in the Design auction on 7th October were a large pair of vases and covers in a design titled ‘Ghostly Wood’, which sold for £27,500 to a private UK collector. Inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Dore’s The Legend of Croquemitaine, the design includes a white rabbit scurrying for cover beneath goblins perched in a gnarled tree.
“This is one of Makeig-Jones’ best-loved designs,” explained Jeffery, “and there is a slightly smaller vase in the collection at the V&A. The decoration appealed to collectors who, like the designer, loved the fairies of Arthur Rackham, and it brought up to date the late Victorian gothic horror that Modernism was trying to sweep away.”
The cleaner (and cheaper to produce) lines of designers such as Keith Murray and Norman Wilson took over at Wedgwood as the inter-war years progressed and Makeig-Jones (unable or unwilling to diversify) left the factory in high dudgeon in 1931. Her ties to the Wedgwood family remained strong, however, as her brother married the daughter of Cecil Wedgwood (Josiah Wedgwood’s great-great-grandson) and it is Cecil’s granddaughter now selling her aunt’s works.
“Despite their relatively short-lived production, Makeig-Jones’ designs remain very popular with collectors today on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Jeffery. “There were some very desirable patterns included among the 14 lots on 7th October, and a Malfrey pot and cover in the Bubbles II design performed very well at £11,875.”
The collection exceeded its presale expectations of £25,000 to realise a premium-inclusive £45,000. Further items from the Makeig-Jones family were sold by the Salisbury auction house in October 2019, with a rare Malfrey Pot in an Oriental design fetching £3,750 including premium.
* Prices quoted include buyer's premium at 25%.