The Bow porcelain factory of Stratford-le-Bow East London was established in 1744 by the partnership of potter Edward Heylen and artist Thomas Frye. It was Frye alone who took out a patent in 1748 and started producing porcelain seriously at Bow. Frye imported clay from America in order to make up the phosphatic porcelain body used at Bow however the most important aspect of Bow porcelain is that it is one of the earliest factories to the include burnt animal bone as a strengthening agent to the body giving rise to what we now call ‘Bone China’.
Bow concentrated on making copies of the Chinese and Japanese imports often using fake oriental characters to mark the base of the wares. The business was officially named ‘New Canton’ and the architecture of the premises was even modelled around the warehouses of Canton in China. As Worcester began to dominate the tea ware market (with its superior soapstone porcelain body that could withstand hot liquids better than the products made in New Canton) Bow turned to figure making, drawing huge inspiration from Meissen. Bow sold its wares all over London as well as enjoying an export trade to America and remained in business well into the 1770s despite the death of Thomas Frye in 1762.
Bow porcelain can be identified by its lack of translucency - the factory rarely fired its porcelain to a high enough temperature to vitrify and therefore there is little (if any) light which can be seen through the porcelain body when a piece is held in front of strong light. The porcelain is normally found with relatively heavy potting in comparison to its competitors. The enamel colours used at Bow often separate it out from other 18th century porcelain and there are certain designs and shapes which are almost unique to the factory.
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