David’s collection of Prattware is the largest in Australia, and well known to fellow collectors around the world. The Staffordshire pottery firm made a wide range of table and home wares. Recently, he created his own website on The Collecting Bug. Read how he did it, and for those interested in setting up their own collection website, some of the useful lessons he learnt along the way. You can see his collection at: http://www.thecollectingbug.com/prattwarepottery/
Tell us a little about your collection
David (laughs): Well it started 26 years ago when my wife Helen was given a beautiful tea set by her mother. It had a distinct backstamp – but it took me 2 years to identify it. It turned out to be made by F & R Pratt. In those days it was very hard to come by information, and although there was a Prattware Collecting Society in the UK, I didn’t know about it. My focus is on pieces made after 1848, when Pratts were the first potters to begin using the transfer process to create multi-coloured pieces, often copies of popular illustrations of the time. They also used real gold to embellish their wares, while other potters just used gold paint. Many of the pieces by Pratt are unmarked, so it is very important to learn the patterns and mould shapes they used.
How did you go about creating your website?
Well I’d thought about it for a long time, but I’m not very computer savvy. I could do emails, use Ebay, that sort of thing, but not much else, so I thought it was always just going to be a dream. Then I saw a notice about The Collecting Bug looking for beta testers, and it all happened from there! To start with, it was quite difficult – I wasn’t happy with the quality of the photographs, and Philip (at The Collecting Bug) sent me an Excel template to fill out for my first few items. I hadn’t used Excel before, so that was difficult too.
What about the photography?
I’d taken lots of snaps in the past, but I wasn’t happy with them. Having a goal made a huge difference. The first few were hard, but I learned about focus, and I learned about lighting. (Laughs) I thought if you shine the light directly onto the item, it should come up OK. Turns out to be quite the opposite! I did a lot of experimenting at the start. I’m still not totally happy, but some of my friends have asked “Who is doing your photography?”, and I was very pleased to say I was doing my own. [Editor’s note: David uses a lightcube, tripod, and “point and shoot” style camera. Photography will be the subject of a future article].
How did you organise and document your collection?
This has probably been the area of biggest change. There was no organisation, it was hit and miss, and everything was all mixed up. It could take me ages to find something. Initially, I was quite concerned, as I had no idea how to start, but it made me think about it in my mind, and I worked out groups, and how I wanted to organise it. A lot of Prattware is undocumented, so some of it is an educated guess. I’m amazed how much I’ve learned, but it gets easier every week.
How have you gone about publicizing your website?
Well so far it has been deliberately low key. I wanted to get a few items up on line [now over 600!] before I officially “launched” the site. There will be a story in the next Prattware newsletter, which goes out to collectors in UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. I have told friends, I got a comment from someone I didn’t know, and I got a mention on the Pot Lid Collectors Facebook page. But basically it has been word of mouth.
And what sort of reaction have you got?
A lot of my friends have commented. And members of the club have contacted me as well, because of the Facebook page. 98% are just nice people who want to connect, although I did have one collector who said “If you are ever going to sell, please give me first option”, and another who wanted to buy some of my best pieces. I have listed my spare pieces in the Trading Post section, so other collectors can easily see them.
A lot have helped with advice. One gentleman took one look at an unidentified object, and said “It’s a chandelier counterweight”. I didn’t even know such things existed! Another gave me details about a commemorative plate. Some are using it as a reference site to compare their unidentified pieces.
Is there anything else like it on the web?
There is the Facebook page, but that is more a community site, and there’s one website where a club employed someone to set it up – but it is hard to update, so nothing changed, and everyone stopped looking at it. And there’s a few others – but not like this.
Anything else you would like to say?
Well I love being able to find everything at my fingertips. But you haven’t asked me about the BEST benefit! That’s the private fields. When I fall off the perch, my children would have no idea what I’ve got. So I’ve marked approximate values and other comments in the private fields. This was a real concern to me.
If you would like to see David’s Prattware Pottery collection, click here: