Wedgwood or a Washing Machine: A Tale of a Farm Wife

It is a joy for me to watch films about how pottery is produced. The potter's wheel, the drippy glazes, the gleaming results.

Interestingly, I also enjoy the films about the industrialization of pottery making. Josiah Wedgwood was the leader in developing the techniques for mass production, including designing moulds and machinery to speed up each process.

As a person who creates handmade items, I wonder at the process from a worker's perspective. In a factory, the employees can't say that they are potters, but rather that they attach handles of tea cups or spouts of teapots...all day long.

I knew a farm wife who worked long, hard hours on her land with an orchard, garden and a barn full of cows. There was always work waiting for her and her husband, from before sunrise to after dark.

This couple would haul their drinking water to the house from the well across the road in big, galvanized buckets. The water in the taps was unsafe for drinking, so was used only for washing clothes. The washer was an old one: the clothes were fed into the wringer piece by piece, so the excess water could be crushed out.

When the farm and orchard were doing well, the couple would drive to the Wedgwood Headquarters in Montreal and the wife would choose a teapot. She owned a rainbow of colours: Jasper blue, sage green, red and even a black one; all embellished with designs of Grecian women in flowing robes.

It used to drive me to distraction, this "waste" of hundreds of dollars. I used to price what the couple needed in terms of teapots: a new washer/dryer? A couple of teapots! New piping for drinking water to the house? Perhaps 3 or 4 teapots, labour included!

It's only now, many decades later, that I understand the couple's reasoning. The teapots meant success. A china cabinet groaning with Wedgwood meant that they were doing "just fine", whereas a washing machine just meant more work.

There was always the work: unrelenting and unforgiving. The farm wife's precious heart could no longer take the strain. She died of a heart attack and her heartbroken husband buried her ashes in her rose garden.

Thank you for spending this time with me,

Lori   xx

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