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A Brief History of Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio

Fareeha Ahmad
Coming Soon

Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio vase, pattern 3024, shows St Cecilia playing a portative organ, with birds and fruits on alternate panels. The piece will be featured in our November Fine Art auction with an estimate of £500-£800.

The late 1890s saw the inception of Frederick Rhead’s inspired ‘Intarsio’ earthenware range for Wileman & Co, now highly coveted by collectors. A number of fantastic Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio pieces will be featured in our November Fine Art Auction, so here’s a brief history of the sought-after range.

Beginnings in Late 1890s

Shelley Potteries had its origins in Staffordshire dating back to the 1820s. It had begun life as the Foley Potteries, with a new earthenware pottery being established in the district of the same name. Through the decades, the company underwent a number of changes, but by 1896 was operating as Wileman & Co. under Percy Shelley, whose father and co-proprietor had passed away the same year.

Depicting a sailing galleon, this lovely twin-handled vase, pattern 3461, will feature in our November Fine Art auction. It carries an estimate of £400-£600.

1896 would prove a pivotal year for another reason, however, with Wileman & Co.’s employment of Frederick Rhead as art director. Rhead had already enjoyed a successful career, having previously worked for Wedgwood, before which he’d been employed at Copeland. Even earlier, he’d been an apprentice painter at Minton’s and been assigned to none other than famed pâte-sur-pâte master Marc-Louis Solon.

With an estimate of £200-£300, this pattern 3012 vase will be featured in our November Fine Art auction. The piece exemplifies how the brighter colours have been used to great effect against the darker background.

At Wileman & Co, Rhead soon introduced a variety of earthenwares – the most famous of which was Intarsio. The colourful designs produced for the range proved immensely popular and, along with the other ranges Rhead introduced, established Shelley’s reputation for producing desirable high-quality wares and designs – so much so, that the company found itself producing art ware for Liberty’s of Regent Street.

Also to be featured in our November Fine Art auction, with an estimate of £400-£600, is this pattern 3159 vase. Decorated with swans swimming on a river, it’s a charming and attractive piece.

The popularity of Intarsio pottery was matched by the prolific amount that was produced and nowadays, Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio pieces attract significant interest from collectors who value the quality and attractiveness of the iconic range.

The Technique

Intarsio is a kind of underglaze decoration involving colourful designs painted on dark backgrounds prior to glazing. A paper transfer of the design’s outline was applied to a biscuit-fired body. The outlines would then be filled in with underglaze colours, after which the piece was dipped in an earthenware glaze and fired. The technique resulted in a fusion of the colours with the glaze, which some considered superior in effect over enamel colours. It’s possible that over 380 Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio designs may have been created!

Depicting a church with a road leading up to it, this pattern 3463 vase will be featured in our November Fine Art auction with an estimate of £300-£500

A New Age of Intarsio

In 1910 Wileman & Co.’s introduction of the Shelley backstamp coincided with a new range of Intarsio. Frederick Rhead had left in 1905 and the new art director Walter Slater’s influence was evidenced in the new patterns and shapes that were introduced: the second series Intarsio pieces were noticeably different, exhibiting a more Art Nouveau style. Yet, their quality and wonderful colours remained key elements.

To be featured in our November Fine Art auction, this pattern 3001 vase is estimated at £200-£300. Depicting cherubs with musical instruments, with leaf and flower border, the piece exhibits a wonderful combination of colours.

Do you have Shelley & Wileman’s Intarsio pieces to sell?

At Potteries Auctions, our team of experts can value your items. We hold free valuation days every Tuesday at our Silverdale saleroom.

Arrange an appointment via our booking form here, or you can email us at or call 01782 638100. We also provide valuations via WhatsApp – simply send some clear photos of your items via the app to 07864 667940.