William Moorcroft started his career designing for James MacIntyre & Co, Burslem, Staffordshire. Here, he was given complete freedom to explore materials, colours and glazes, ultimately developing his unique, colourful style. He personalised each piece of pottery produced with his own signature or initials. Moorcroft's talents soon saw him promoted to director of the art pottery department.
Moorcroft's early pieces were decorated primarily with tube-lining. Amongst these was his popular Florian ware range, which used flowers, foliage and peacock feathers. His Aurelian range, on the other hand, used transfer printing and gilding. Moorcroft's style was influenced by ceramics of the Far East and also by the Etruscan and classical Roman civilizations. In addition to his decorative vases, jardinieres, jugs and biscuit barrels, he also produced a range of practical tablewares.
In 1904, Moorcroft won a gold medal at the St Louis International Exhibition and followed up the achievement with further medals and commendations, culminating in the appointment of the Moorcroft company as Potter to HM The Queen in 1928.
In 1913, Moorcroft left MacIntyre & Co to set up his own pottery in Burslem. Money came from Liberty, the famous London store and Liberty continued to control Moorcroft until 1962. He worked closely with his employees, personally overseeing the design of all pieces. Early wares were limited in colour, owing to Moorcroft's inexperience with underglaze colours, but he later expanded to a much more extensive range, employing the use of richer, deeper colours that achieved a greater boldness than his earlier designs. For the later years of his life, Moorcroft was preoccupied with developing flambe glazes, which he used to enhance the look of many of his patterns.
Since the opening of his pottery, Moorcroft collaborated with the London department store Liberty. He worked with the company to produce designs such as Flamminian and Claremont. His most popular pattern is said to be Pomegranate, while others like Eighteenth Century and the landscape pattern Moonlit Blue are amongst those highly prized by collectors today.
In 1937, Moorcroft was joined by his son Walter, who, with the help of his brother John, became director of the pottery. Walter carried on many of his father's popular patterns, later improvising or varying some of them.
Unlike most pioneering art pottery firms, the Moorcroft pottery remains in operation today, producing designs that respect its traditions of style and technique.
Over the past years the world profile of Moorcroft has grown internationally, both in quality and in perceived value. Auctioneers Bonhams hold a dedicated Moorcroft sale each year. In 2001, Sothebys New York held a major sale comprising many pieces of Moorcroft pottery. The Victoria & Albert museum has joined many other national museums with significant pieces of Moorcroft pottery in their permanent collections.