Joseph Szeiler was born in South West Hungary in 1924, the son of a Master Butcher. He attended High School for eight years and in 1944 obtained his entry to the Budapest University. His ambition was to become a veterinary surgeon, and to this end he studied his chosen course for two and a half hears. Sadly, the uncertain and complicated situation of his country was such that he decided to give up his studies, and left Budapest in 1947.
He first went to Austria, where he found work as a labourer on a building site, later volunteering to come to Britain in July 1948, to become a coal miner. His arrival coincided with a dispute as to the number of foreign workers who could be accepted for the mines, and Szeiler found himself in Britain, unemployed. After several months of inactivity in a camp near Market Drayton, Shropshire, in October 1948 he was allowed to apply for work in the pottery industry, eventually being engaged as a mould runner at the Eagle Pottery of J.& G. Meakin, Ltd, Hanley. The following year he obtained a slightly better paid post at the Goldscheider Pottery, staying with that company for some six months. He then moved to Wade Heath Co who employed him for a short while as a caster.
By this time he had made two important decisions. Namely that he would make Britain his permanent home and that he would make every attempt to carve out a career for himself in the pottery industry – a far cry from veterinary medicine. His plan was to become his own master. The first step was to learn all he could about the fundamentals of modelling, to that end obtaining employment with Mr C.S. Lancaster, a well known and respected modeller of Burslem, with whom he stayed for six months. During this period he aquired a good working knowledge of modelling, moulmaking and casting. Szeiler also augmented his repertoire by attending the Burslem School of Art during the evenings. He was then taken on to work for Richards Tiles Ltd, as a faience maker for nearly twelve months.
In 1951, however, with the small savings he had managed to accumulate, he rented a room on the first floor of an old property near Litchfield Stree, Hanley, where he started in business as a potter on his own account. He began with a few small animals and figures, making his own models and moulds, and doing his own casting, glazing and decorating. The wares were fired by an arrangement with a small local tilery, the greenware having to be carried daily on foot by Szeiler for a distance of about a mile in boxes, and carried back to his room by the same means. That’s determination for you. His financial state was such that he couldn’t afford a separate workshop and living area, so he lived and worked on the same premises.
Four years of hard work saw a small but steady income. However, faced with the need for his own kiln, and larger premises, in 1955, he bought a residential property in an industrial area at Morrland Road, Burslem. There, by hard work, careful planning, and a determination to succeed, he gradually expanded his scope of operation. Four rooms on the ground floor were given over to making, decorating, firing, wharehousing, and despatch. The litchfied Street property was retained and some o f his employees worked there on casting, fettling and drying. With the aid of a small van, the wares were carried from Litchfield Street to Moorland Road for firing.
The bulk of the output of the Szeiler factory was animal figures, with more than one hundred being produced in various sizes. Also made were vases, figures, table wares, money boxes, and contemporary sweet dishes. They were made from a prepared earthenware body, cast in the orthodox fashion, biscuit fired, glazed and decorated according to well established practice in North Staffordshire.
After his death in 1986, the Moorland Road premises were sold off. The current owners, ‘Moorland Pottery’ are considering a small museum in tribute to Joseph Szeiler whose pieces are becoming more collectable by the year.