She now runs the multi-million pottery brand with her husband Matthew Rice from their factory in Stoke-on-Trent where the hugely popular tableware is made.
Spongeware evolved in the 19th century when potteries in Britain began using fine-pored sponges to print simple coloured patterns onto inexpensive earthenware. It was a cottage industry – women would pick up cheap blanks from the pottery, sponge them on the kitchen table and return these for the second firing.
Robert Pugh of Towy Antiques Fairs said: “Llanelly was one of the key potteries in Wales and as this tableware was so inexpensive it was well used with only a relatively small amount surviving. Combined with the resurgence in interest this makes pieces harder to find, although it’s rare not to find a piece of Llanelly pottery at our Carmarthen antiques fairs and fleamarkets.’’
The next of these monthly events is on Sunday, April 15, at the United Counties Showground in Carmarthen.
Dealer and fair organiser Pugh added: “There are so many different variations in spongeware it’s little wonder it attracts so many collectors, but it’s the pieces where the root of the sponge has been used to create a repeat that get the most attention.
“The best-known example of this in Welsh pottery is in the border of the cockerel plates made in Llanelly.”