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It’s in the Book!

Richard Dennis has been publishing books for collectors about ceramics and glass for over 40 years. More than 80 titles have been printed by Richard Dennis Publications and they are written by people passionate about their subjects. Most of their Royal Doulton titles were produced by Louise Irvine, the Executive Director & Curator at WMODA. Louise got to know Richard when she was researching The Doulton Story exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Richard Dennis began his career in the art market with a job sweeping up at Sotheby’s auction house in London in 1959. He went on to work in the ceramics and glass department and helped promote the market for Tiffany and Gallé glass. In 1965, he branched out on his own dealing initially in Edwardian silver and antique French glass paperweights. He opened a shop in Kensington Church Street to sell antique glass but his interest in Victorian ceramics took over during the 1970s. Richard’s first selling exhibition of Doulton Lambeth Stoneware was held in 1971 and his early catalogs are still key resources for collectors.

Gradually his catalogs evolved into well researched, illustrated books published to coincide with his ground-breaking exhibitions. Wherever there was a neglected area of collecting, or a need to publish original research, Richard was eager to fill the void. He produced classic reference books on the Martin Brothers, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Pilkington’s Royal Lancastrian Ware, Ruskin Pottery, Parian Ware, Goldscheider, Charles Vyse and William de Morgan, which are all featured in the Wiener collection. He also likes to promote the work of contemporary studio potters such as David Burnham Smith, Maureen Minchin, and Roger Cockram, who are represented at WMODA.

Discovering unappreciated Moorcroft pottery in the 1960s led to the first book on this subject in 1973. Richard helped to revive the fortunes of the Moorcroft Pottery between 1986 and 1992 and his wife Sally Tuffin became their design director. Some of her stunning Moorcroft vases are in the Wiener collection alongside many vintage designs featured in the reference books. Richard has championed other potteries throughout his career and in 2005 his services to the Staffordshire Pottery Industry were rewarded with an O.B.E, the Order of the British Empire. In 2008, Richard curated a spectacular sale of British Ceramics at Bonhams in London, including some pieces from his personal collection which were acquired by Arthur Wiener.

Richard now helps to run Dennis Chinaworks with his family, utilizing the stables at his Victorian rectory home and nurturing talent in rural Somerset. Sally ran one of the leading London fashion houses Foale and Tuffin, during the swinging sixties. Her range of pots inspired by the couture industry made her the star of the Flair for Fashion exhibition at WMODA. Their son, Buchan Dennis is involved in the pottery together with his wife Jess who runs the new tearoom. The pots made to Sally’s designs at the Dennis Chinaworks are wheel-thrown and turned before hand-applied color is spun onto the leather hard earthenware. Incised and slip-trailed motifs are painted with underglaze colors and finished with a clear glaze. From beginning to end each pot is the work of a single decorator. Their signature joins the number, company name, date and throwers mark on the base.

Many of the books produced by Richard Dennis Publications can be purchased at the WMODA shop.