Have you ever looked at a chair, table, lamp, or any other design piece and asked yourself how it’s been created? We sure have – which is why we created KBB magazine’s How It’s Made series, where we get a look behind the scenes. (Getting to satisfy your curiosity is one of the best parts of our job!)
Founded in 1990, Original BTC are known for their beautiful indoor and outdoor lighting, which is made in Oxfordshire to this day. I spoke to Andrew Bettany, their production manager, to find out a little more about how their product come to be – and what he needs to be successful at his job.
I start the day with a cup of coffee and use this time to relax while planning for the hours that lie ahead.
Once at work, what’s the first thing you do?
I check the kilns, which are the ovens used for firing and drying the products, to ensure the overnight programme has run correctly.
Then I’ll switch on the spray booth and the compressor.
What are you responsible for in your job at Original BTC?
I ensure the day-to-day running of the factory including hands-on tasks such as spraying and dipping the ware, overseeing the manufacturing processes and dealing with any issues, and managing all members of staff. I’ve worked at the factory for 15 years now, originally starting as a foreman before working my way up to production manager.
Talk us through a typical day at Original BTC…
I arrive at 5am and open the kilns. I start the day by mixing and testing the slip – a liquid clay that, when it hardens, becomes Original BTC’s bone china products. Once this is done, the casters pour the slip into moulds.
Then, I’ll pump the slip from the blunger (the machine used for mixing it) to a large container called the ark. After the products have been through the first firing stage, called the biscuit kiln, I dip and spray all products with a pink glaze made of silica so they have a clear, even coverage and can be fired again.
I also deal with customer queries and manufacturing problems, too, meaning each day is always different.
What is the last thing you do before going home?
Before leaving work, I check all of the kilns are on timers to ensure they are firing overnight.
How did get your job at Original BTC?
I initially left the pottery industry due to a factory closure, but a few years later I returned and started
as a foreman at Original BTC – and then I worked my way up to my current position.
Is there a particular skill you’re glad you possess and why?
I’m very proud of my hand dipping skills, as this is what gives our products such a high-quality finish. Unfortunately, I believe this is a dying trade due to the decline in the pottery industry.
What is your proudest moment at work?
One of the things I’m most proud of is working out how to fire unusual shapes which push the boundaries of firing. At Original BTC, we often work on innovative designs that require a lot of research, trialling, and testing.
What surprises or impresses people the most when you tell them what you do at Original BTC?
That it’s possible to make lampshades from bone china.
Tell us about the weirdest thing that’s ever happened…
One morning I came into the factory and checked the temperature readings on the kilns – and two separate kilns read 666°C at the exact same time.
What do you enjoy most about your job at Original BTC?
Working with all the Original BTC staff at the Stoke-on-Trent bone china factory, Staffordshire Heritage, and seeing the high-quality products leave the premises – it’s a very proud moment.
How do you like to relax when at home?
I enjoy fishing and spending time with my family, especially my three-month-old granddaughter Olivia.