Arnold Machin

From humble beginnings as a potteries apprentice Arnold Machin rose to become an acclaimed sculptor creating the iconic bas-relief portrait of Her Majesty the Queen used on all Royal Mail definitive issue stamps.

Patricia Machin

Patricia Machin was born in 1921 and studied painting at Goldsmith's where her tutor was Leonard Applebee. Finding inspiration from the Old Masters and still-life, she was an established painter, illustrator, designer and author.

Francis Machin

Architect, sculptor, businessman and painter, Francis Machin was a talented designer responsible for a range of conservatories and garden buildings still seen throughout the United Kingdom, United States and Europe.

In 1925, at the age of fourteen, Arnold Machin was interviewed by an employment officer from the Education Office who recommended Minton's China Factory. He was immediately taken on as an apprentice when the manager saw the work Arnold had produced, and he began a seven year apprenticeship learning to decorate china.

For the first two years, he worked in the gilding shop alongside trained gilders. He spent hours making Chinese pot-hook shapes around the rims of plates, a technique used by the Chinese for thousands of years, and although he didn't appreciate it at the time, he realised in later years just how beneficial this practice had been. He was then given plates with flower designs already on them and had to practice colouring them with very cheap paint. Once deemed to be proficient, apprentices were then allowed the freedom to decorate plates as they wished.

Opposite the factory, Minton had built a complex of art school (Stoke School of Art), library and swimming pool. Eric Owen, a modeller for Minton, taught at the art school in the evenings, and advised Arnold to go there too. Owen took a particular interest in Arnold's work, and their meeting was the beginning of Arnold's interest in sculpture. He also became interested in anatomy at this time and would study carefully plaster casts of Greek and Roman work on show. When time permitted, Arnold would make models in the art school, and would spend lunchtimes reading avidly in the library. One day he came across a book by William Blake which was unlike any he had seen before, and Blake continued to influence Arnold throughout his life. He would spend any spare cash on books by authors such as Blake, Heine, Goethe, Trollope, and Dickens, and on books about maths, metaphysics, and philosophy.

Eventually, Minton's customers requested china painted specifically for them by Arnold, but in 1926 work gradually petered out due to an enormous slump in factory production due to the General Strike all over Britain. The Wall Street Crash in 1929 brought about a worldwide economic crisis, and there was no pay and only a little dole money available, for which you had to sign on. Arnold found this degrading and to keep himself occupied would still go into the works and paint a few plates. Eric Own had a key to the art school, and during the strike would let Arnold in so he could continue modelling. At the same time, the Head of the Art School, Gordon Forsyth also took an interest in Arnold's work.


After the strike, work resumed at the factory but with a general air of unease. A sense of insecurity regarding his own future led Arnold to look for vacancies in the Staffordshire Sentinel. He saw an advert for painters and gilders at the old King Street China Works in Derby and was offered a job there, even though he didn't pass the medical examination. Arnold left Minton with mixed feelings but at the age of 22, h was leaving home for the first time to move to Derby. After about two years, the china works were put up for sale, and the buyers dismissed the workforce and demolished the factory. Arnold found himself unemployed again.