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History in the Making: Ralph Lauren Home and Burleigh Are Creating the Heirlooms of the Future

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History in the Making: Ralph Lauren Home and Burleigh Are Creating the Heirlooms of the Future

March 7, 2019

There’s a certain air of understated luxury associated with well-made objects—pieces crafted by hand, with a lineage and a story. The story of Ralph Lauren Home‘s collaboration with Burleigh pottery is one nearly 200 years in the making. Their partnership, fueled by Ralph Lauren’s design leadership and backed by Burleigh’s long-standing history of pottery craftsmanship, is a true celebration of artistry. Ralph Lauren’s three custom patterns are drawn from the brand’s Americana roots and displayed on Burleigh’s hand-crafted wares for a collection that is both distinct and familiar—these are modern classics meant to be lived with and passed down.

Here’s a look:

clay slip is poured into a jug mold—the same molds burleigh has been using fo 10
Above: Clay slip is poured into a jug mold—the same molds Burleigh has been using for more than 100 years.

The process of making each piece is one that Burleigh has been perfecting for the last 160 years. With minimal intervention of modern machinery, each ware is still made using molds acquired in the 1800s. The technique is so primitive it’s practically revolutionary: clay is made from raw materials using the same machinery that was installed in the Burleigh factory in 1889, then molded by pouring clay slip or pressing clay into one of the molds. The piece will be fired three times total before it’s complete, but it’s Burleigh’s unique underglaze tissue transfer printing that sets it apart.

an etruscan jug is unmolded. the jug will be fired three times (an initial firi 11
Above: An Etruscan jug is unmolded. The jug will be fired three times (an initial firing, once after it’s been printed, and a final firing after it’s been glazed) before it’s complete.

The labor-intensive tissue transfer printing involves using engraved rollers to print patterns onto tissue paper, which is then applied by hand to the ware while the paper is still wet. The craftsman must place the paper precisely the first time; there are no second tries in this time-honored technique, but it results in a superior product whose pattern has depth and subtlety that can’t be achieved using a more automated method. The collaboration with Ralph Lauren Home is Burleigh’s first foray into printing another brand’s original designs onto their pottery, but Ralph Lauren designs are nearly as steeped in American culture as Burleigh is in English, making the partnership a true celebration of a commitment to quality craftsmanship. One of the patterns in the collection—Midnight Sky—is reminiscent of a classic Ralph Lauren bandana, and the other two—Faded Peony and Garden Vine—were inspired by vintage batik cloths.

freshly printed tissue paper in ralph lauren&#8\2\17;s custom garden vine p 12
Above: Freshly printed tissue paper in Ralph Lauren’s custom Garden Vine pattern comes off the roller at the Burleigh factory.
the wet tissue paper is applied to the ware, then rubbed on to transfer the pig 13
Above: The wet tissue paper is applied to the ware, then rubbed on to transfer the pigment onto the piece. The paper must be placed precisely on the first try, and many of Burleigh’s workers have been mastering this job for decades.
a batch of glazed wares heads into the kiln for their third and final firing. 14
Above: A batch of glazed wares heads into the kiln for their third and final firing.

The patterns are printed on everyday dinnerware—plates and mugs and cereal bowls—as well as an Etruscan pitcher and sugar pot, among other occasion pieces. The collection encompasses 15 forms in total, all designed to be mixed and matched and used daily, then passed on to generations to come.

the patterns in the collection are complementary and meant to be mixed to form  15
Above: The patterns in the collection are complementary and meant to be mixed to form a personal collection.

Visit Ralph Lauren to shop the collaboration, and start your personal collection.

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