The English Ladies Co. is an exciting new range of bone china figurines and giftware. Each beautiful figurine is individually designed in the UK by master modellers and prestige painters. These designs are unique in appearance, with high levels of detail in the model and painting.
Master Painter Dan Smith
Dan Smith left school in 1969 when his flair for art gained him an apprenticeship with Royal Doulton at their figurine factory in Nile St, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. He painted such iconic pieces as
Autumn Breeze and Top o’ the Hill and his natural flair and ability was soon noticed.
In the 1970s, under distinguished Art Director Eric Griffiths, Dan joined the Limited Edition team and was called upon to design and create prototype pieces. He worked with the renowned modeller, Peggy Davis to create the Femme Fatale series and in 1973 was asked to paint the limited edition commemorative figurine of Queen Elizabeth II on the 20th anniversary of her coronation.
After 15 years as a Royal Doulton painter Dan moved to the Prestige Department, where the most highly skilled artists created pieces such as Princess Badoura, Saint George and Hercules, amongst others. Dan’s favourite piece to paint was the impressive Jack Point, until the launch of Alan Maslankowski’s Lawrence of Arabia. Dan worked closely with the gifted modeller, bringing to life many of his creations, until Alan’s untimely death in 2004.
Dan has travelled the world to meet keen collectors and to showcase his skills. He visited USA, Hong Kong, Japan and the Far East, as well as several trips to Australia and New Zealand, and is well known and respected by collectors. His signature is highly sought after and his work has been sold in auction houses across the world.
Now Dan is turning his skilled hands to the English Ladies Co products and is enjoying the opportunity to design beautiful new pieces with a sense of style and individuality. He enjoys applying the skills and techniques he learned to create a new, modern style of his own.
Artistic flair runs in the Hughes’ family for Adrian’s grandfather was Edgar Maybery – the renowned water colourist, etcher and oil painter (1887-1964). In fact it was seeing Edgar paint that inspired Adrian to study art when he left school. Adrian recalls, ‘I loved watching Pops paint. It seemed that with just a few strokes of his sable brushes he could transform a blank piece of water colour paper into a vibrant painting full of colour and light.’
At Newport College of Art Adrian quickly showed a preference for representational rather than the abstract art that was so much in vogue in the 1970s – and he went to as many life classes as he could to learn about anatomy. And he still prefers paintings that tell a story to abstract studies of shapes and colours. He continues, ‘I’m glad I went against the trend of the time and focused on life studies as this has really benefited my modelling skills. Nevertheless I did attend modern art lectures too, and, I particularly remember the excitement and challenge of welding steel into large and impressive shapes.’
Adrian went on to train as a teacher and studied graphic design at Oxford, winning competitions for illustrative work. Various jobs including teaching art and technical drawing followed, with one of his favourite contracts being for the Snowdonia Mountain Park to design a visitors’ leaflet showing features and landmarks that could be spotted from the footpaths. After meeting and marrying Eddie (short for Edwina) the Hughes settled in North Wales and they went on to have five children – four boys and one girl.
In around 1980, having admired a Minton Bronze and Ivory figurine, Adrian was prompted to contact Royal Doulton (who owned the Minton brand) and was put in touch with the then art director, Eric Griffiths. ‘Eric was interested in my work,’ Adrian reveals, ‘and to test my skills he asked me to model a cat – one of the hardest animals to sculpt. Having succeeded at this task Eric commissioned me to sculpt pretty ladies, child studies and animal figurines. Eric was so much more than a manager; he was a great teacher, he helped me to appreciate beauty in ceramics and I really appreciated his caring approach since it was a busy time in my life raising a growing family.’
Sculptors work in many differing ways and Adrian sometimes sketches his ideas before beginning a piece but nowadays he usually prepares a maquette or small model. Once he is happy with this he starts the full size model using modeller’s clay rather than wax because it is more malleable.
Applying his early training he pays attention to anatomy ensuring that the bone structure of elements such as shoulders, elbows and hands is correct. The face is the last detail to be added, as Adrian explains, ‘as the form of the figurine unfolds I start to understand what sort of face is needed so that it matches the style of the piece. My inspiration comes from all walks of life, from photographs and from people I see around me in the villages of Wales going about their daily lives.
‘In a sense my creative process is similar to reading,’ he adds, ‘in my mind is a whole library of images and visual memories and I use these to make my models as an author would use words to write a story. I usually work to a brief but the style, interpretation and pose is up to me.’
Over the years Adrian has worked for a number of different companies but is thrilled to have been commissioned by the English Ladies Co. to create the Figurine of the Year for 2012. The new figurine portrays a glamorous young woman, she sports a modern hair style adorned with roses and she wears a pretty and fashionable party dress with scalloped neckline and flowing sash. Her bouquet of roses includes handmade blooms. Whatever the celebration in 2012 – a special birthday, anniversary or other achievement – there’s no better way to mark the day.