Enid Seeney Homemaker Uncovered

Lot 758: Enid Seeney designer & artist 21 piece tea set. Estimated hammer price: £80-160

Enid Seeney… who, you might ask?  Well Enid was a designer and an artist who quietly designed and created the iconic ‘Homemaker’ designs produced on ceramics and other materials in the 1950's, she worked mainly for Ridgeways, in the Stoke on Trent Potteries region of Staffordshire.  Homemaker designs were sold extensively by Woolworths mid-last century and were widely available, and, as such are common and not of any particular great value. 

However, we have the dining set pictured above coming up for auction in November and we are really excited about it!

We are fortunate to have been favoured with the instructions to sell a very personal tea set, by a direct descendant of Enid, her niece. This particular hand painted 21 piece tea set, has a personal dedication to ‘Tric & Rankin’ (Patricia and Rankin Milligan), who were sister & brother in law to Enid, and parents to the current vendor.  In addition, it is inscribed ‘best wishes for Christmas 1952’, and signed with the monogram ES, on the reverse of the cake plate.  We believe that makes this set truly unique, significant & special.

As a designer, Enid did not receive personal credit for her designs until Simon Moss’s book, ‘Homemaker, a 1950’s design classic’ was published in 1997.  The publishing of this book helped to finally give the credit to Enid that she deserved for her major contribution to 1950’s design.

On this particular dining set, the vendor, Enid’s niece told us why she was parting with such a special piece of history, telling us, ‘I have no children and l am the last of our family to know the history of this tea set and how beautifully and patiently it was hand painted and by whom. It is a unique set and needs to be with someone who appreciates it and the person who designed and painted it’ 

She went on to divulge some other personal information about her aunt, that paints a picture of her life and the twists and turns it took.

’Whilst Enid was employed as a designer her work was owned by Ridgway’s. She married a Royal Navy Officer and travelled with him on his various postings at home and abroad. They finally settled in Plymouth but separated. It was not an amicable separation and Enid was left to bring up their 2 children, very much as a single parent on benefits. The eldest child was born autistic and sadly his autism had quite a huge impact on both Enid and his sister. He became too difficult for Enid to manage and went to live in a community living home.

“Then tragically, my cousin Sarah was killed in a road traffic accident whilst travelling in a school minibus. Enid had moved to Torquay where she remained after Sarah’s death.  She never returned to designing. I think her confidence and self-esteem had been eroded by her unhappy marriage and the tragedies surrounding both her children.

“It was wonderful that Simon’s book, finally brought her the recognition she deserved and fortunately also reunited her with someone from her past called Bob Kelsall who she married and lived very happily with until her death. I think she had amazing potential which circumstances and the lot of women in the workplace and home, at the time, conspired to prevent from being fully realised. Her home was full of the most stunning plates decorated by her, with beautiful flowers.’

Much is written about Enid, and readily available to view online including this fairly comprehensive obituary by the Guardian published in the event of her death in 2011.  However, as this this set was consigned by a direct relative of Enid’s, additional information is available about Enid upon request.

We are delighted to have been favoured as the auction room of choice for this vendor, along with many others who continue to entrust their heirlooms to us to sell. We are leading auctioneers worldwide in the field of modern British ceramics, holding various world records.  However our expertise extends to most other collecting areas and disciplines, growth in our jewellery, coins, silver & watches auctions gaining enormous popularity around the globe, greatly assisted by our cutting edge live internet bidding.

If you have any household items or heirloom pieces you would like to sell at auction, then talk to our team of experts who will be able to give you an accurate auction estimate.  You can join us at one of our free valuation days, or you can email us for an appointment on [email protected]  or call us on +44 (0)1782 638100 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm to arrange.

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