J. Palin Thorley (1892–1987): a third-generation potter, trained as a decorative painter and designer with England’s most prestigious companies, including Wedgwood. He brought his talents to America’s large industrial potteries and then to Colonial Williamsburg, where he supplied the Craft House museum shop with reproductions of eighteenth-century antiques from their collections. A master of variety, Thorley created avant-garde moderne serving sets as well as more traditional Colonial Revival-style tablewares. Over 150 examples of Thorley’s work, accompanied by magazine advertisements that span his career, offer this lively, personal story about the twentieth-century dining room table in America.

English Factories
American Factories
Williamsburg Studio 1937–1987
Techniques and Experiments
J. Palin Thorley: Traditional and Modern Design in Twentieth-Century Ceramics is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition is guest curated by John C. Austin, Emeritus Curator of Ceramics and Glass at Colonial Williamsburg with assistance from Robert Hunter, editor of Ceramics in America. Unless otherwise noted, all items were designed by J. Palin Thorley. Likewise, unless otherwise noted, all items are lent by John C. Austin, long time friend of Thorley’s and fellow lover of ceramics.

For more information about J. Palin Thorley, see the articles in the 2005 and 2006 issues of Ceramics in America published by the Chipstone Foundation and available in the Museum Store.