Florence Emma Minto was a decorator for Linthorpe Pottery in Middlesbrough during the 1880s. Working in the ladies’ decorating room in the pottery, Florence had a good job for a time when most girls were working in domestic service or heavy industry. In the Linthorpe, Pottery Florence would have been working in a creative artistic environment with a small team of other women decorating the pottery with glazes, which give pots their colours and slips, which gives the finished pot a glaze or shine.
Florence was born in London in 1869 and her father was a master tailor. The family moved to Middlesbrough sometime before 1881, probably hoping to take advantage of the booming population of the new town and the employment opportunities this brought. The Linthorpe Pottery opened in 1879 and Florence would have likely started working there around 1884 when she was around 15 years old.
Florence working in the Ladies’ Decorating Room at Linthorpe Pottery. Image courtesy of the Dorman Museum.
This was an unusually creative job for a girl like Florence, and we know the ceramics she worked with because each decorator stamped their individual pots underneath. Her ceramics feature the Linthorpe’s famous unusual colours with hand decoration and painting Florence would have applied. The ladies’ decorating room was a bright airy space in the pottery with walls lined with Chinese silks and paintings to inspire the girls while they were working. For working-class girls, these working conditions were the best you could get.
Florence Emma Minto’s mark on the underside of a Lintorpe Pottery ceramic showing she decorated this one. Image courtesy of the Dorman Museum.
Linthorpe Pottery was only open for 10 years. Despite that their ceramics had become incredibly popular with collectors all over the world for their exceptional colours and designs, unusual for their time. The pottery also inspired Florence to pursue art. She worked for a while at Burmantofts Pottery in Leeds before completing three art exams: freehand drawing, ornament design, and model drawing.
Second-grade exam certificate in model drawing, awarded to Florence Minto in 1891. Image courtesy of the Dorman Museum.
Florence did not continue to pursue an art career though and instead trained to be a nurse in Manchester for the Church Mission. She retired back to Middlesbrough and passed away in the 1940s. Ceramics and her art exam certificates can now be found in the Linthorpe Pottery Gallery in the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough.