Contact us today +44 (0)1782 638100

Pâte-sur-Pâte: From Paris to Stoke-on-Trent

Fareeha Ahmad

Pâte-sur-pâte is a specialised decorative technique. Highly sought after, pâte-sur-pâte manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent saw great success in the 19th and 20th centuries.

History of the Technique

The technique was developed in the mid-1850s by Parisian ceramics producer Sèvres in an attempt at recreating an earlier Chinese technique. It involves building up multiple layers of white clay slip, into which a low relief image is carved, which creates a gorgeous translucent finish.

A fabulous example of a Sèvres pâte-sur-pâte piece by Marc-Louis Solon, circa 1867.

Quite apart from its intrinsic decorative quality, the pâte-sur-pâte technique requires a high degree of skill and expertise to perfect. A meticulous and time-consuming process, each piece took weeks or even months to produce. It was not an easy skill to acquire, so true masters of the technique were held in very high regard with their pieces commanding great value. Today, they are considered highly collectible.

Pâte-sur-Pâte Success in Stoke

In time, the pâte-sur-pâte technique found a new home with ceramics manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent, as Minton benefited from the arrival of talented designer Marc-Louis Solon. Originally employed at Sèvres, Solon had fled the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, finding refuge in England.

A portrait photograph of Marc-Louis Solon

Minton’s pâte-sur-pâte items produced by Solon garnered huge popularity and such was the demand for it that he was tasked with tutoring English apprentices – namely Alboin Birks, Alboin’s cousin Lawrence and Frederick Rhead. Each became skilled in their own right, accounting for the collectible nature their works also gained.

Then, other ceramics manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent began producing pâte-sur-pâte pieces. Lawrence Birks left Minton and co-founded The Vine Pottery, continuing to produce examples there. Wedgwood and Royal Worcester also joined in – the former having gained the expertise of Rhead in 1878, and the latter succeeding with the employ of another designer, William Pointon.

A Royal Worcester pâte-sur-pâte vase by William Pointon, circa 1875-80. This piece sold at Bonhams in June 2022 for £408 including premium.

Together, pâte-sur-pâte manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent produced immensely collectible pieces of stunning quality and craftsmanship, the demand for which continued into the 20th Century.

Our Pate-sur-Pate Sales

19th and 20th Century pâte-sur-pâte examples often perform well at auction; their success in our sales highlighting their enduring status as popular and collectible items.

Decorated by Alboin Birks, this Minton twin handled vase & cover achieved a hammer price of £1,300 in our November 2021 Fine Art auction.

This gorgeous Minton cabinet plate sold for £880 in our recent July Fine Art auction.

This stunning pair of Minton twin handled vases & covers by Harry Hollins stole the show at our March Fine Art auction earlier this year. Depicting cupids and resplendent in scrolling foliage and gilding, the vases soared to £14,000!

Do you have Pâte-sur-Pâte pieces to sell?

The Potteries Auctions team is well-placed to provide expert valuations of your collectible 19th and 20th Century ceramics. Valuation days are held every Tuesday at our Silverdale saleroom. Arrange a free appointment via our booking form here.

Alternatively, you can email us at or call 01782 638100. We can also value your items via WhatsApp – simply send some clear photos of your items via the app to 07864 667940.