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Black Dog

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About Us

Black Dog is a family business run by Daniel Collings. It was started by Daniel's mother Philippa Threlfall during the early 1980's in Wells, Somerset. The design studio and workshop relocated to Bath in June 2016. Click on Our Shop 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.

Small Town in Provence ceramic mural

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.

Plenty and Grace terracotta tile

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 thirty five years of making decorative tiles in 2016. With the younger generation now involved the business is all set for the next thirty 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 in the Walcot area of Bath.

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.

A short time lapse film to show the evolution of the Happy Hen design. We selected a few images of Staffordshire hens sitting on baskets and created a hybrid of these images for a version that would work well as a tile. You may notice that there are several attempts to get the patterning on the wings to work.

Although Daniel now designs the tiles, Philippa provides a valuable consultative role. Daniel and Philippa take ideas from all sorts of references collected over the years - carvings in wood and stone, manuscripts, tapestries and engravings. Here are examples of how two designs came into being.

Good Food

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.

Good Food terracotta tile

Chinese Garden

'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.

Chinese Garden terracotta tile

This was how we used to have clay delivered to our previous workshop in Wells

A clay delivery required a bit of planning. We had to rope off at least 4 car spaces on the opposite side of the main road so the delivery vehicle could park and unload. There were about 80 bags of clay per pallet and each one had to be carried into the workshop. With a little help, we could get 4 tonnes of clay stashed away in under 2 hours.