Collection

Outsider tea service

Collection:

Category: Ceramics

Date: Circa 1960

Designer: Scottie Wilson

Nationality of Designer: Scottish

Manufacturer: Royal Worcester

Manufacturers Location: Worcester

Material: Earthenware and transfer under glaze

Dimensions: Plate diameter 10cm, cup height 7cms

Purchase Price: 9.99

Abstract:

Part of a tea service of cups, saucers and side plates.

Provenance:

Signed to base.
Purchased from eBay by Adam Sutherland.

Personal history/nominator:

“This service brings together the maverick creative - Outsider artist Scottie Wilson - and one of the UK’s most loved and mainstream cultural landmarks, Royal Worcester. I particularly enjoy the complexity of this collaboration: Wilson, the celebrated and feted Outsider (a contradiction in terms) and Worcester, the very image of establishment culture, trying to get hip in the 60’s. It is interesting to note this collaboration is not referenced on the Royal Worcester Museum website.” Adam Sutherland

Adaptions/renovations:

None.

Why it's in the Collection:

Scottie Wilson was discovered during the 1940’s enthusiasm for folk art, alongside other notables such as Alfred Wallis. Wilson was represented by the gallery Gimpel Fils and stories of his eccentricity in relation to the art market are legion. It would be fair to say he never really understood the art market or his popularity within it.

These designs for Worcester are stylistically challenged and not representative of Wilson’s best work. He also painted directly onto ceramic shapes, but these are similarly unsatisfying, appearing simply decorative and losing the intensity of his paper doodles. He was reluctant to release work and provided the minimum required, hence Worcester had to work with a single drawing, altering size and configuration of the design.

For the Collection the tea service is of interest on two counts: Firstly, the service celebrates Worcester as one of the first companies in Britain to successfully develop porcelain in response to wares imported into Europe from Asia. Secondly it documents the initial wave of interest in, and commercialisation of, the alternative form of creative expression now referred to as Outsider or folk art, which Wilson embodies. Folk art is of particular interest to Grizedale Arts with many artists exploring this area and long standing collaborations with folk artists such as Peter Hodgson (also represented in the Collection).
projects
The production technique of the service references Roman pottery and the Terra Sigillata process, an early and very basic form of glaze. It was also available in white grey and black.

About the Designer/Maker:

“I’m listening to classical music one day – Mendelssohn – when all of a sudden I dipped the bulldog pen into a bottle of ink and started drawing – doodling I suppose you’d call it – on the cardboard tabletop. I don’t know why. I just did. In a couple of days – I worked almost ceaselessly – the whole of the tabletop was covered with little faces and designs. The pen seemed to make me draw, and then images, the faces and designs just flowed out. I couldn’t stop – I’ve never stopped since that day.” Scottie Wilson

Scottie Wilson, born Louis Freeman, (1891- 1972) was perhaps unsurprisingly Scottish, originating from Glasgow. After serving in the First World War he emigrated to Canada where, for many years, ran a second hand shop in Montreal, discovering his particular ability for drawing or doodling on scraps of paper which became highly desirable and sold through the ‘diabolically cluttered office’ of the Toronto based art dealer Duncan Douglas. Later in his career Wilson refused to sell his originals. As with many ‘Outsiders’ the art market was clearly a puzzle which he attempted to manipulate with the low cunning of the eccentric.

Throughout his life Wilson complained of poverty but on his death his house was, predictably found to be stuffed with cash, a habit he shared with the avant-garde performance artist Ken Dodd and many others of the ilk. In Wilson’s heyday Picasso and Dubuffet physically fought over who should have the right to buy one of his drawings, and critics and cultural theorists raved about his oeuvre.

Wilson was championed by Jazz surrealist eccentric George Melly who also wrote a book on Scottie.

Bibliography & Further information

It’s All Writ Out for You: The Life and Work of Scottie Wilson, Melly, George, Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1986

Outsider Art Collection

Worcester Museum