Not By Chance….

Along with an abundance of cafes, our town is well endowed with antique shops… places where real treasures are often found.

My daughter recently made me aware of one treasure that I had tended to overlook a little – simply because it’s not exactly rare, yet it is exceedingly special.

I’m referring to a type of stoneware with an unglazed matte ‘biscuit’ finish which is found in a range of colours – red being the rarest (and most valuable), with pale blue being best known.

Known as Jasperware, this type of pottery was first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. The considerable range of popular blue plates, vases and ornamental items distinguished by their relief decorations, is often known as ‘Wedgwood’ and was made into the 21st century.

The relief decorations, usually in white, are incredible in detail resembling neo-classical Greek designs. The artistry of these pieces is remarkable and each individual item carries a ‘hallmark’ to distinguish it. Like a code, the first letter represents the month of manufacture, the second identifies the potter who threw the shape and the last letter signifies the year the piece was made, starting with 0 for 1860.

Murray Smith

Josiah Wedgwood was a creative innovator. He pioneered craftsmanship and marketing ideas well beyond his time. He implemented illustrated sales catalogues, travelling salesmen, direct mail marketing, money back guarantees, free delivery, self-service in his shops and even offered buy one get one free promotions. His success in the pottery business came about with purchases from Europe’s royal palaces, to middle class homes.

Wedgwood saw intrinsic value in humanity. A believer in equality and justice he supported the abolition movement when the slave trade held sway in England. His strong Christian faith led him to ask one of his designers to create an emblem – a kneeling slave captioned, “Am I not a man and a brother?”

It became a popular symbol for abolition throughout England and America featuring on a wide range of products including jewellery. Wedgwood’s protest directly assisted the 1807 abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

My introductory comments that Jasperware can become ‘overlooked since it isn’t exactly rare, nonetheless is exceedingly special,’ stemmed from thinking about… people. We’re not in short supply, yet you, along with everyone else is ‘hallmarked’- uniquely designed and crafted by God. Just think about how our one-off unique fingerprints and iris patterns of the eye identify us.

God’s care and the precise design evident in our bodies is a wonder… the structure and function in a human-being is nothing short of miraculous. Although the ‘agnostic’ says we cannot know if there is a God, creation demands a creator and design requires a designer.

The word ‘agnostic’ coined by Thomas Henry Huxley (from the Greek ágnōstos, “ignorant, not knowing”) seems appropriate. Evidence that is irrefutable, is still not enough for some.

Josiah Wedgwood wrote something very true in reference to his creations – it is equally true of God’s creative masterpiece – human-beings, whom He made in His own image to share relationship with.

“Beautiful forms and composition are not made by chance…”

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