William De Morgan won many commissions for his tile designs over his 30 year career as a ceramic designer. One of the earliest was from the Norwich-based stove manufacturer Barnard, Bishop, & Barnards. They engaged with De Morgan & Co. to produce a design which would be simple, match an Arts and Crafts interior and repeat endlessly both horizontally and vertically around a hearth.
De Morgan created BBB to fulfil this order exactly and it remained his most popular design throughout his career. As such, the Foundation has tiles in its collection which date from as early as the 1870s and as late as 1907, all featuring the BBB design.
The De Morgan Foundation has over 40 individual tiles in this design, but they vary greatly in the execution. Such was the demand for this design that De Morgan & Co. produced it in a range of colours and in 6” and 8” squares.
The Ruby Lustre examples of this tile in the Foundation’s collection were acquired in 2016. They are very rare, as they were painted by De Morgan onto Wedgwood blank tiles. Prior to the Foundation’s purchase of these tiles, experts denied that De Morgan bought blank tiles from Wedgwood and so these tiles changed attitudes and understanding drastically.
This design is typically De Morgan and it is essential to understanding his structured and geometrical approach to designing ceramic tiles. Therefore, there is a BBB tile on display at each De Morgan partner site, at Watts Gallery in Surrey, Cannon Hall in Barnsley and at Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton.
At the end of August 2019, the De Morgan exhibition at each of these
museums will change over, so make sure you visit your favourite works before they go, and join us in September as we open the new exhibitions.