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Josiah Wedgwood worked with the established potter Thomas Whieldon until 1759 when relatives leased him the Ivy House in Burslem, allowing him to start his own pottery business. The launch of the new venture was helped by his marriage to a remote cousin Sarah (also Wedgwood) who brought a sizeable dowry with her.
In 1765, Wedgwood created a new earthenware form which impressed the then British Queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who gave permission to call it "Queen's Ware"; this new form sold extremely well across Europe. The following year Wedgwood bought Etruria, a large Staffordshire estate, as both home and factory site. Wedgwood developed a number of further industrial innovations for his company, notably a way of measuring kiln temperatures accurately and new ware types Black Basalt and Jasper Ware. Wedgwood's most famous ware is jasperware. It was created to look like ancient cameo glass. It was inspired by the Portland Vase, a Roman vessel which is now a museum piece.. (The first jasperware colour was Portland Blue, an innovation that required experiments with more than 3,000 samples). In recognition of the importance of his pyrometer, Josiah Wedgwood was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1783. Today, the Wedgwood Prestige collection sells replicas of some of the original designs as well as modern neo-classical style jasperware.
The main Wedgwood motifs in jasperware, as well as in other wares like basaltware, queensware, caneware, etc., were decorative designs that were highly influenced by the ancient cultures being studied and rediscovered at that time, especially as Great Britain was expanding her Empire. Many motifs were taken from ancient mythologies: Roman, Greek or Egyptian. Meanwhile, archeological fever caught the imagination of many artists. Nothing could have been more suitable to satisfy this huge business demand than to produce replicas of ancient artefacts.
Many representations of royalty, nobles and statesmen in silhouette were created, as well as political symbols. These were often set in jewelry, as well as in architectural features like fireplace mantels, mouldings and furniture. Wedgwood has honored several American individuals and corporations as well, both historically and recently. In 1774 he employed the then 19 year old John Flaxman as an artist, who would work for the next 12 years mostly for Wedgwood. The "Dancing Hours" may be his most well known design. Other artists known to have worked for Wedgwood include among others Lady Elizabeth Templetown, George Stubbs, Emma Crewe and Lady Diana Beauclerk.
Wedgwood had increasing success with hard paste porcelain which attempted to imitate the whiteness of tea-ware imported from China, an extremely popular product amongst high society. High transportation costs and the demanding journey from the Far East meant that the supply of chinaware could not keep up with increasingly high demand. Towards the end of the eighteenth century other Staffordshire manufacturers introduced bone china as an alternative to translucent and delicate Chinese porcelain. In 1812 Wedgwood produced their own bone china which, though not a commercial success at first eventually became an important part of an extremely profitable business.