Moorcroft’s Elise Adams on the firm’s design-led collaboration with the RHS

Elise Adams – MD at art pottery firm Moorcroft – tells us what makes the long-established RHS partnership tick.

Back in May, art pottery firm Moorcroft launched two limited edition collections to celebrate the opening of the RHS Garden Bridgewater.

One was inspired by the new garden itself, while the second – the RHS Fiori Bottan Collection – is inspired by 45 17th century Italian watercolours found in the RHS Lindley Collection of botanical art.

These new ranges mark the latest in a long partnership between the two brands. We caught up with Moorcroft MD Elise Adams to find out more about what makes the partnership tick.

Elise Adam, Moorcroft

Hi Elise, great to connect. For anyone that hasn’t come across Moorcroft before, how would you describe what you guys do?
We are a fine art pottery company with a lot of heritage. Our founder William Moorcroft created our first pottery pieces back in 1897 and we have over 120 years of heritage history behind us. We are still based in the Stoke-on-Trent factory William built in 1913 that has a Grade Two listed bottle oven. There used to be thousands of these kinds of structures around Stoke-on-Trent but there’s now about 47 left and ours is the only updraft kiln in the whole of England.

Wow. Is it open to the public?
Yes, people can come to our Heritage Visitor Centre and Museum and see the bottle kiln, go on an hour-long factory tour and see how pieces of Moorcroft are made.

Has the design process changed much across these 120 or so years?
The way our pottery is made has actually changed very little. Every piece is still handcrafted, and we still make the moulds by hand. We’re a working factory, but when people come on a tour and see our designers and craftspeople, they tend to think that factory isn’t really the right word. It’s more like an artisan studio.

Sounds great. And how long does it usually take to create one of your pieces?
Depending on the size of the piece, it can take anywhere from a week to a number of months for one piece to be made. We make only a few hundreds of pieces a month rather than thousands, and some pieces can be very rare, with as few as 10 pieces made.

What guides the sorts of things your designers create?
By the very nature of Moorcroft, we try not to blindly follow trends. We do our own thing; we’re very individualistic and lead by design. Sometimes our designers are given a set brief, as in the case of our collaboration with the RHS, but other times they’re given a broader brief – or a totally open brief – where the shapes and the designs are entirely up to the designer and their creative imagination.

Elise Adam, Moorcroft

You mentioned the RHS partnership there; let’s dive into that. Why did that brand make sense for Moorcroft to team up with?
We’ve been working with them for a number of years. Like many things, it started off quite small with a single piece and as the years progressed, we started creating whole collections with them.

We have a great synergy with the RHS because they are synonymous with nature, and if you look at our history, the very first designs that William Moorcroft created were of British flowers. The demographic of our collectors overlaps too as many of them support the RHS. We’re kindred spirits.

The brand also really appealed to our designers because the RHS has got access to some of the most amazing plants on the planet. With the new Fiori Bottan Collection that Nicola Slaney – one of our designers – has created, we had access to 300-year-old vellum watercolours from the RHS archives. That was the starting point for our new range. To have access to that kind of floral art, and then to be able to put a 21st Century spin on those images, has been a magical, creative, lovely experience.

What were the team at the RHS like to work with?
Brilliant. They’ve been really flexible with us when it comes to design ideas. Last year’s collaboration with the RHS was inspired by the best plants at their world-famous Chelsea Flower Show. That was a link to what was happening there and then in the world of horticulture, but this year saw us go into the RHS archive, so it’s a really flexible partnership.

Looking at how you work with brands more broadly, what sort of IP do you usually look to work with?
We’ve worked with lots of different brands over the years, but the two largest ones have been the RHS and the RSPB. We’ve also worked with the NSPCC. We do a lot of collaborations with charity partners. We’re embarking on some African animal designs for Tusk, the wildlife conservation charity; that will be launched later this year. These partnerships help bring Moorcroft to a whole new audience and help good causes along the way.

Moorcroft has a strong design style and brand identity of its own. Have you ever been tempted to license Moorcroft out into other areas? Could you see designs on apparel or homewares, for example?
We started this process a few years ago with Liberty when they launched a collection of Moorcroft scarves and ties. There’s huge potential for us to take that further.

Our designs go back over 120 years so there’s lots for partners to play with. Also, the nature of our art pottery means that many of our designs are often repeat patterns, so they could look beautiful on things like fabrics, notebooks and wrapping paper. There are lots of opportunities for us in the future, so we look forward to embracing these new horizons.

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