14 March 2013
A RARE MAIOLICA PLATE BY DORA BILLINGTON
I have been privileged to see this maiolica plate by Dora Billington in a private collection. It is a charming work, strongly rooted in the tin-glaze tradition. Like most of her work, it is difficult to date. It has an exhibition label on the back, but that gives no clue. Her work appears diverse (for example, in my last post I showed a tenmoku bowl in the Stoke on Trent Museum), but without dating it is hard to say whether she gradually developed, moving slowly from one technique to another, or used several methods at the same time.
The drawing of the cockerel is lively and convincing (it stands on its toes as it crows), but we would expect that from the artist because she trained in drawing at the Slade. What is more remarkable is the lettering on the plate, which is superb. It is very likely that it was done while she was teaching at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, which had a tradition of calligraphy, started by Edward Johnston and continued by such letterers as Graily Hewitt. So she had good models. But it is the only lettering by her I have seen in any medium. It demonstrates the potential Dora Billington had to establish herself as an artist, which she subsumed almost completely in her teaching, enabling other people to shine where she might have done herself.