The Festival of Britain Mug by Norman Makinson has become a design icon. We take a look at the background to the piece and include a Festival of Britain Mug price guide of realised prices at auction.
The Festival of Britain in 1951 sought to instill a sense of rejuvenation and redefine public morale in a country battered by war. It was a nationwide showcase of progress and a nod to the Great Exhibition of 1851, which had heralded the country’s industrial prowess. In the spirit of linking past achievements with contemporary aspirations, Norman Makinson was commissioned by Wedgwood to create a commemorative piece that would both celebrate and symbolize this national endeavor: the now-iconic Festival of Britain mug.
This mug, rendered in the classic Queen’s Ware of Wedgwood, did more than just pay homage to a national event. Makinson’s design ingeniously melded historical references with futuristic visions. The mug featured intricate designs that captured the essence of the 1851 Great Exhibition by incorporating motifs of the Crystal Palace, an architectural marvel of its time. This design choice linked a moment in the nation’s grand Victorian past with the present, bridging a century of British achievement.
Alongside the historical Crystal Palace, Makinson included the emblematic Skylon Tower, a futuristic structure that seemed to float above the ground, symbolizing the country’s reach for the skies in this new era. The Skylon became an icon of post-war optimism, a beacon of the forward-thinking attitude that the Festival was all about. By juxtaposing the two structures, Makinson’s mug design narratively threaded the industrial might of the past with the bold, innovative spirit of the 1950s.
For collectors and enthusiasts of design, the Festival of Britain mug by Norman Makinson is not just a keepsake; it’s a narrative artifact. It is a concise visual history lesson and an artifact that captures the nation’s post-war zeitgeist. Makinson’s work for Wedgwood stands out as a testament to British resilience and creativity, and this mug, with its designs of the Crystal Palace and the Skylon Tower, serves as an enduring legacy of the transformative power of design.