Text by Britt E. Stafford • Photography by William Dickey and Caroline Smith
Shelley china, which was called Wileman until the 20th century, is distinctive for its dainty feel yet strong composition and is often thin enough to appear translucent. The famous bone china’s history dates back to the 1860s, when Joseph B. Shelley joined the Wileman family, who owned a large pottery in Staffordshire, England, that produced both earthenware and fine china. Joseph, whose main focus was to produce the best china products possible, went on to become a partner in the business and eventually handed it down to his son, Percy. As the company and its products evolved, so did the name, which eventually transitioned to the eponymous Shelley name that is so well known. Until the company’s end in 1966, Shelley produced thousands of patterns and shapes.