Black Dog of Wells is a family business run by Philippa Threlfall and her son Daniel Collings. We have our design studios and workshop located in the heart of the City of Wells, Somerset. Click on our Showroom to find out where we are located.
Philippa Threlfall trained at Cardiff College of Art as an illustrator and potter. This unusual mixture of disciplines led to an excitement with surface and texture and she soon began working in modelled and textured clay: her first public commission was in 1963. In 1967 she met and married Kennedy Collings, a Cambridge historian who after working in industry had developed an interest in reproducing limited editions of sculpture.
Philippa and Kennedy went into partnership in 1968. Together they designed and made many large murals and pieces of sculpture in ceramic, mostly for public situations and often with historical themes. These can be seen all over the country as well as overseas.
Shown right is 'Small Town in Provence' - a private commission measuring 6ft x 8ft.
Philippa's website www.PhilippaThrelfall.com shows all her major works for both public and private commissions.
The name Black Dog comes from the title of Philippa and Kennedy's original property in Tor Street in the city of Wells. Records for the house go back to 1562. In 1636 reference is made to the property commonly known as the Blacke Dogge: it was a cider house, of which there were many in Somerset at that time.
In the mid-eighties and under the name Black Dog of Wells, Philippa and Kennedy developed a range of unusual decorative tiles. They evolved a unique process to reproduce these in natural terracotta, basing the designs on historical and traditional sources and often incorporating texts to add significance. The tiles have sold in many thousands, and we know are collected by people all over the world.
Shown left is 'Plenty & Grace'. This is one of our most popular and longest running of our designs.
Daniel who had been working in the cartographic industry for eight years joined Black Dog in 2002, the same year that Kennedy died. He was able to bring new strengths and ideas to the business. Black Dog of Wells celebrated twenty five years of making decorative tiles in 2010. With the younger generation now involved the business is all set for the next twenty five years!
The terracotta tiles are now the core of the business and there are over 120 designs in our range, with new ideas being added all the time. With our small team of staff, we do all the art and design work, production and marketing for the terracotta tiles from our studio-workshops within the Liberty of Wells Cathedral.
We are always looking for new ideas, so if you have a design or (short!) text, which you think we could use for our terracottas, then drop us a line. Should we use your idea we would be delighted to send you an example of the finished product as a thank you present.
Philippa is still designing for the business. She takes ideas from all sorts of references collected over the years - carvings in wood and stone, manuscripts, tapestries and engravings. Here are examples of how three designs came into being.
The corn sheaf tile is based on a Victorian brass doorstop. The text 'For good food and good friends Praise be' was first heard as a grace said before a meal and we incorporated this into the design.
The tile is shown here being used as a breadwarmer. When heated in the oven the pottery, retains its heat and keeps the bread warm for longer.
'He who plants a Garden plants Happiness' is translated from a Chinese proverb.
We wanted to incorporate this saying into a design with a Chinese flavour, and so used a 19th century 'willow pattern' serving dish as the source of the image.
Translated into modelled clay, the original painted image takes on something of the quality of a piece of carved ivory.
We wanted to design a tile that celebrated success. We liked the concept of a hot air balloon signifying the sky's the limit. We found good references of early hot air balloons and made a composite design. The small man adds a sense of fun to the tile and we added the word Congratulations.
The photograph shows the design transferred onto the clay surface with initial modelling well underway.
A small part of our business involves stone casting. We have created a number of products including a deacon and grape pickers from Wells Cathedral, Birds in Foliage tile, a ram and two house name plaques which can be personalised.
Featured left is Sul, Celtic goddess of the springs. This is an accurate version of the stone carving found in the Roman Baths, in Bath.
These products are available from our gallery shop.