I've collected Spode Blue Italian since I was ten years old. I have some pretty interesting pieces in my collection, like the Cheese Wedge Dish that I begged for--and received from my dear mother--for high school graduation. People might have thought it was a little odd for a ten year old to begin collecting china, but that's just the way I was! From the time I was young I recognized the beauty of the products and I still remember reading about transfer ware in Victoria Magazine and being fascinated with the time consuming, labour of love involved in creating each piece of porcelain.
So, it seemed natural to use my wedding registry as an opportunity to complete my collection. I set up my registry at Caplan Duval, here in Canada. I ended up waiting over a year due to some mysterious "reorganization" at the Spode factory. Finally, 15 months later, my first shipment of china arrived.
I was completely crestfallen when I opened the box. I hardly recognized the china. It was an odd, almond colour, with an indistinct blue-ish pattern that seemed like a caricature of the original. Moreover, the plates in the 5 piece place setting did not even stack properly with my old set because they were sized incorrectly.
Spot the knockoff:
Businesses seem to apply a "one size fits all" solution to economic challenges. Outsourcing is viewed as the universal cookie-cutter response to poor sales. In their letter to my mom, the people at Spode suggested that outsourcing was their only option. For legal reasons, I cannot quote their letter on The Earthly Paradise, but their overall argument was that customers would prefer to purchase Spode products at a lower price, than spend more for Spode that had been made in England.
The next day, we discovered that Royal Worcester, the maker of Spode, was bankrupt. I wonder why!
Outsourcing is a difficult concept for me. I would personally much rather spend twice as much for a quality product made by artisans than a cheap knockoff produced by workers in a foreign factory being paid pennies an hour. I firmly believe that unhappy workers cannot create beautiful work. It doubtless comes from reading too much William Morris, but I firmly beleive in artisan work, and I don't care whether it's profitable or not! Morris and Company was always a profitable business, in that it did not lose money. But it also did not make the kind of obscene profits that most business today seem to believe they require in order to compete in the global marketplace.
I continue to hope that whichever corporation purchases Royal Worcester has better businesses ideas, but I'm not holding my breath. It seems that the world's former luxury goods producers have completely lost sight of what made their products worth having in the first place.
You can read more about Spode/Royal Worcester's financial difficulties in the Tri-City Herald.