The Spode Christmas Tree collection is one of the most popular Christmas dinnerware and servingware collections in the world. As the name implies, the design features a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with gaily wrapped presents strewn underneath, along with bands of green and sprigs of holly. But did you know that this design came about from an artist who had never even seen a real Christmas tree before?
The story of the Spode Christmas Tree begins in America in the 1930's. Spode was already well-known for their gorgeous ceramics, having pioneered the method for reproducing the classic Chinese blue and white china design in the late 1700's. Josiah Spode, and English potter, set the benchmark for all English china when he mastered the method of design transfer and underglazing. As his designs grew in popularity throughout Europe, they travelled to the New World as settlers in America wanted to bring a little piece of home with them.
In the 1930's, a man named Sydney Thompson was the only Spode agent in the States. He travelled several times to the Spode factory in England with the aim of creating and developing new patterns and collections for his customers in America. He pored over all of the old pattern books, looking for designs that he could revive and bring to the US.
In 1938, he decided that a Christmas collection should be their next venture. all he could find in the old pattern books, however, were holly designs, which he did not think were suitable for American customers. They wanted something that called to the ideas of family, tradition and home.
The designer Harold Holdway was charged with coming up with the design for the Spode Christmas Tree collection. His first effort, however, was laughable! He created a Christmas tree that has presents hanging from all of the branches. Adorning the top of the tree? A Santa Claus! Holdway admitted that he had never seen a Christmas tree before.
Thompson took the designer aside and explained that presents went underneath, not on, the tree, and that the branches were decorated with ornaments. And at the top of the tree there should be a star or an angel. Holdway went back to the drawing board and came up with a much better design… but he kept Santa Claus firmly planted at the top of the tree, where he remains to this day!