Senior designer, Rachel Bishop, graduated from Staffordshire University with a BA (Hons) in design (ceramics) and joined Moorcroft in 1993 aged 24 as only the fourth Moorcroft designer in 100 years. Fast forward 30-years and Rachel has a Staffordshire University Hall of Residence named after her and leaves a legacy in the Applied Arts that brings Arts & Crafts design par excellence into the modern age. A true disciple of William Morris and a designer whose work is collected worldwide; Rachel can produce work of unsurpassed brilliance that quite literally brings the natural world into the home in the form of fired earth.
With Rachel’s arrival came a resurgence in complex tubelined designs, as she championed the historic skill of tubelining, or slip-trailing, that Moorcroft’s founding father, William Moorcroft, introduced at James Macintyre & Co in 1898 with his new Florian ware designs. William however, only took a fleeting glimpse into the world of insects, opening a new design window through his Florian Butterfly design. Rachel has surpassed the expectations of Moorcroft Chairman, Hugh Edwards, who, 30-years ago viewed an array of butterfly designs on his living room floor. Now Moorcroft’s world hums and buzzes with bees, dragonflies, ladybirds and of course, exquisite butterflies. Unsurprisingly her 30-Year Celebration this Friday will also see the launch some of her finest work in this field in her Hive of Design Collection. Journey with these bees as they dance among the large, solitary heads of Oxeye daisies, appearing like a thousand moons, with petals outstretched, falling or tightly nipped in bud, to share the location of pollen sources, nectar, water, and even possible new beehives to call home. Moreover, take the opportunity to talk to Rachel about some of her finest designs.
Above, Godshill Meadow, limited Edition: 30
Amid a cluster of daisies, a small ladybird climbs like a molten tear, up a blade of grass before pausing for a moment, and then flying away. Inspired by a meadow in the New Forest, where Rachel grew-up, which borders open forests and a babbling brook, a central sunburst, in the form of an oxeye daisy, emits pristine-white light.
In 1997, the Design Studio was been formed with Rachel at its head. Rachel continued to carry the design mantel of William Moorcroft as well as the work of the man she admired above all others, William Morris. Yet for her 30 Year celebratory design she has created a design for Morris’ protégé, John Henry Dearle. Perhaps like Dearle, Rachel may see herself as the protégé of many and yet she is herself utterly unique. Inspired by the tapestry created by John Henry Dearle, chief textile designer for Morris & Co for over 50 years, Rachel has created what is said to be the finest Arts and Crafts design in Moorcroft history. Miraculously, the design is so tightly woven with colour and form that it transcends the mute colours of a jacquard loom. Camouflaged by trees, a tawny owl perches, with eyes of flaming abers, to observe life within his sphere.
Above, Dearle’s Creatures
As you enter this hallowed design terrain, you may almost hear a wood pheasants cackle as he flushes out duck-egg blue song birds. Its barred bright gold, fiery copper-red and chestnut-brown plumage swoop downwards until his iridescent-blue neck markings are aligned with sky-blue and deeply-lobed acanthus leaves. And then you may see it – the secret tapestries of Dearle’s Orchard wallpaper, with large blue and green acanthus leaves and small orange trees with over-sized oranges. Hidden amid flowers clothed in purple, chalky-yellow and scarlet, a fox cocks his head backwards as if admiring his surroundings. This is Moorcroft’s Senior Designer at her finest, a design holding the fruition of years of labour; a moment of epiphany and a prize piece of any Moorcroft enthusiast.
With a sensitivity to the past, Rachel created innovative designs such as Oberon, Foxglove, Pansy and Lamia. Within two years of her appointment turnover had increased by 150%. Moorcroft had not enjoyed such success since before the Second World War. The Moorcroft Club, grew: among the collectors of Rachel's designs are Rod Stewart, Tom Cruise, Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder cosmetics fame, and the Sultan of Brunei.
Described in The Glasgow Evening Times as a 'prodigy', Rachel won a Gold Medal in 1996 for Product Of Excellence at Earls Court in London with her 'tribute to Charles Rennie Mackintosh' design, an achievement followed by a Silver Medal the following year. The design, along with the famous Lamia featuring water lilies, became Moorcroft's new image and ran for ten years. For her celebratory collection, Rachel’s Lamia is resurrected once more but with an utterly new window into lakeside reeds and flora.
Many of our Gold or long established members of our Moorcroft Club will recall Rachel’s appearance in the Channel 4 television programme "Collectors Lot" which followed her design process from conception to completion in a series of three programmes, featuring her New Forest range of designs, inspired by her childhood home. The New Forest has been a hothouse of inspiration for Rachel through the decades with stylised designs holding Voysey overtones and, as mentioned above, the Moorcroft senior designer returns to the New Forest with utter gusto in her Godshill Meadow design.
Among a number of television and radio appearances, Rachel’s words on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour showed her to be a flagship for women in the Applied Arts. Also worthy of mention, is the very fact that Rachel re-kindled the relationship with Liberty of London, founding shareholders of Moorcroft, using their heritage and Arts and Crafts background in designs such as Cymric Dream, Tudric Dream and Regent, showing her inventive use of coloured tubelining and stylised design. As well as ceramics, Rachel designed silk scarves and ties for Liberty. The scarves used a version of her Oberon design, featuring intertwining honeysuckle and wild roses, and are now collectors’ items. Dearle’s Creatures can be said to be the culmination of years of design acumen, perusing Liberty archives, sheer skill and perseverance.
Please note that the catering numbers have now been clarified and the Friday 8th September Event is now closed to bookings. Rachel’s new Collection will be available for viewings from Saturday 9th September onwards at the Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre, Sandbach Road, Burslem, ST6 2DQ. Please note that we cannot guarantee availability of some of the smaller limited edition pieces from our outstanding senior designer.