The 1950s bought post war optimism to Britain and a boom in innovative designs for the home, from ceramics, to glass, to furniture, gadgets and lighting. What you had in your home began to say something about you, and this was usually aspirational, especially for young working class couples setting up home for the first time. One of these designs was Ridgway’s ‘Homemaker’ which was not only very popular in its time, but still remains so with collectors of today.
Homemaker was produced by Ridgway Potteries in Staffordshire and featured a distinctive black and white design featuring illustrations of the latest fashionable home furnishings. These included a Robin Day reclining chair, a kidney shaped coffee table, Gordon Russell style sideboard and atomic plant holders. It was mass produced earthenware pottery, designed by Enid Seeney (1931-2011) and was soon picked up by a buyer from Woolworths in 1957. The design immediately appealed to those who couldn’t afford the designer price tag of the more expensive items but allowed them to bring some of it home at an affordable price. Thus, a design classic was born.
The range was produced until 1970 and consisted of new US style rimless plates, along with jugs, cups and saucers, plate stands, gravy boats, bowls, cruet sets tureens and sandwich plates. The most sought-after items today are the coffee and tea pots which can go for anything between £100 and £300. Ridgway Homemaker was also produced in two shapes, ‘Metro’ and later ‘Cadenza’. It is the Cadenza teapot that can demand the highest prices as this was one of the only products redesigned for that range. There was also a bon bon dish which is rare to find today, as well as designs produced in red for the Australian market and experimental colours such as green. There were a range of backstamps, and even unlicensed copies made by US company Homer-Laughlin.
Ridgway used a new style of printing to transfer the designs to the products, called the Murray Curvex litho process. A reverse design was applied using a gelatine pad and the wet print would then mould to the shape of the item, making all over pattern possible. The only products this couldn’t be applied to where the hollow shaped teapots and jugs etc, so they instead were decorated with a cut out version of the pattern.
Enid Seeney left Ridgway in 1957 to get married and move to Devon. This was soon after her design was snapped up by Woolworths and she was unaware of how popular it had become. It was a chance encounter that alerted her to this, in seeing her design in her local Woolworths in Plymouth. Since then she followed the progress of her range and kept a record of all her Homemaker sightings. Later in the 20th century she was also pleased to discover a new generation were beginning to appreciate it too. A book was written about Homemaker by Simon Moss (Homemaker: A 1950s Design Classic) who also met her and interviewed former employees of the factory for meticulous research. They went to the Victoria and Albert Museum together in the 1990s where she saw that one of her plates was included in the ceramics gallery, Simon reported that she had tears in her eyes as a result.
You can view an Enid Seeney obituary on the Guardian Website and Simon Moss’s book has become a rare find in itself since it is now out of print, but you can read it in the British Library.
This blog post is written by Rachel Toy, owner of Rachel’s Vintage & Retro. I am a vintage enthusiast writing about a Vintage Lifestyle, focusing on the Vintage Home. I also sell a wide variety of vintage household items from kitchenalia, to homewares such as linens, glassware, barware, occasional furniture and collectable toys from my Vintage Website and Social Media.