The First Day’s Vase
An important part of Britain's ceramic heritage, a black basalt vase made by Josiah Wedgwood, is in danger of disappearing overseas forever unless the money can be raised to save it for the UK. The First Day’s Vase is one of only four pieces that we know for certain were actually made by the master potter himself.
Josiah Wedgwood moulded the vase with his own hands, on the day that his Etruria Works opened in June 1769, while his business partner Thomas Bentley turned a large wheel to provide power for the throwing wheel. The four vases were then sent to the firm’s decorating shop in Chelsea to be painted. Each one is different and therefore unique.
Wedgwood indicated that he did not wish these vases ever to be sold, and the First Day’s Vase remained in the family’s ownership until last year. From 1981 until 2016 the vase was on loan to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, where it was seen and enjoyed by many thousands of people. Last year the owner withdrew it from display and sent it to auction at Christies where it was bought by an overseas buyer for £482,500.
The Minister of State placed a temporary bar on the export licence for the vase to give the museum the chance to match the auction price. This has now been extended until 14th July in recognition of the serious intent shown by the fundraising appeal which is being spearheaded by the Friends of the Museum charity. Since the start of the campaign on 1st February we have raised more than £180,000, including local pledges and donations, as well as major grants from the Art Fund (£90K) and the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund (£60K). The level of local giving has been particularly impressive, as it demonstrates that people in North Staffordshire care deeply about their heritage. But every penny counts and the Friends are appealing to anyone who cares about ceramic history to donate and help secure this iconic vase for Stoke-on-Trent, where it belongs. For further information please see: www.stokemuseums.org.uk/savethevase