Pattern Focus: Denby "Arabesque"

Posted by Mike Eley on

Are there any other tableware designs from the 1960's as iconic as Denby "Arabesque"?

Denby Arabesque/Sarmarkand

Ironically it was never intended to be a full set of tableware. It was originally a small gift ware set, designed by Gill Pemberton in 1962. The set only included a large goblet, a salad bowl and some storage jars. However, it caught people's imagination with it's red and gold hand-painted design and the set was extended to include the full dinner, tea and coffee service as well as serving and cookware, cutlery and additional giftware.

The red and gold design was actually inspired by a trip to Russia that Gill had made previously, and her idea was brought to life by decorator Trish Seal. It was initially hand-painted and this goes some way to explain the wide variety of shades, ring sizes and clarity that one comes across buying pieces today. Beyond that, due to the difficulty of hand-painting the design on the unfired brown glaze, production was switched to a decal/tranfser print which led to a stronger yellow and a more consistent finish.

Interestingly, "Arabesque" was nearly named "Sarmarkand". However, the Portmeirion Pottery beat Denby to it when they exhibited a pattern by that name, and so a new name was found.

Made for many years there is a huge variety of pieces available to collect in Denby "Arabesque". Some of the rarer pieces include the cutlery set made by Touchstone, coasters, goblets, storage jars, round chop platter and the large mugs.

  Denby Pottery Arabesque Oblong Platter  Denby Sarmarkand Salad Serving BowlDenby Arabesque Touchstone Soup Spoon

Generally, it is a very robust set which, like most Denby Pottery, does not chip or crack easily. However, would be buyers at car boot sales and charity shops should always be cautious when buying lidded serving ware such as casseroles, teapots and coffee pots. Always check the underside of the lids as these tend to suffer from chipping. It's also worth checking the underside of any spouts on pouring ware as the thin lip makes them vulnerable.

Also, if buying for resale, while some variation in design is to be expected, we recommend avoiding very early hand painted designs where the colours appear to have run or leaked. These may have been seconds or just a quirk of the time, but they do not sell well. 

If you are looking to replace pieces or add to your Denby Pottery "Arabesque" set click here to see our current range. If you are seeking pieces that we do not have listed, let us know and we will contact you as soon as they become available.

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