Diane M. Lewis was the creative force and guiding light of the Connoisseur of Malvern studio, but not everyone is aware of her long history in the field of art porcelain. She was practically “born into” the industry on September 24, 1937 as Diane Chance, in Worcester – a city renowned since the 1700s for the famed Royal Worcester porcelain factory.
As a young woman she apprenticed at Royal Worcester and became a flower maker in 1953. Her talent was recognized there by Dorothy Doughty who became Diane’s mentor and oversaw her rapid advancement to senior flower maker. In that capacity she worked on most of the Dorothy Doughty flowers and birds produced between 1955 and 1965. Some of her early floral designs were displayed at Thomas Goode, still one of the most revered puveyors of fine china and glassware in Mayfair. Diane’s son Martyn was born in the mid-1960s.
One of the other artists there was Ronald van Ruyckevelt who was also involved in the production of the Doughty birds as well as the series of flower studies on which he worked with Diane. After van Ruyckevelt left Royal Worcester and opened his own studio in Malvern, he and Diane again teamed up to produce a unique range of gilded bronze botanicals. One such study is shown below; a future Archive post will illustrate all of them.
After leaving Royal Worcester and the arrival of her daughter Melinda, Diane co-founded her own studio, Cranleigh Art Ceramics, in 1969. Their fine work quickly came to the notice of the American studio of Edward Marshall Boehm whose widow Helen Boehm wanted to open a UK subsidiary. Boehm purchased Cranleigh in 1970 and renamed it Boehm of Malvern. (A future Archive post will showcase their designs.) As the Head Floral Designer for the new company, Diane created their line of hand made flowers in 1971. These proved so wildly successful that by 1975 they had become the “backbone” of the studio.
In 1979, after having spent almost ten years with Boehm of Malvern, Diane Lewis co-founded the Connoisseur of Malvern studio. The incredibly talented artists that she brought there were the cream of the crop of the art porcelain world, not only for the beauty but also the technical skill of their designs. Biographies of many of them will appear in future Archive posts. However, Diane Lewis’ amazing talent for designing botanically accurate floral studies remain unchallenged by anyone else in the world.
After the closing of the Connoisseur studio in the late 1990s, Diane Lewis continued to create “bespoke” designs as special commissions for her longtime clientele and collectors. These later special commissions were produced under the Diane Lewis Chance and “D by D” backstamps. By the turn of the millenium Diane’s family also included her beloved grandchildren Max and Maddie.
Diane Lewis’ death on January 5, 2015 was a great loss not only to her loving family and friends but also to the entire art world. Her legacy, however, must live on. Her son Martyn relates that famed broadcaster Paul Harvey, who knew and appreciated Diane’s work, once told him “Martyn, when you and I leave this planet we will leave it the way we found it. When your mother leaves us, she will leave it more beautiful than the way she found it.” Nobody who has ever seen one of her sculptures could ever have the slightest doubt of that.
Permanent Exhibitions, Collaborators and Clientele (partial list)
In the UK
Appleby Collection, Guernsey
Castle of Mey
Perrins Museum, Worcester
US Embassy Residence, London
In the USA
Belengrath Gardens Museum
Bing Crosby Trust Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia
Cecil Day Collection
Dean Martin Trust
Egyptian Embassy, Washington D.C.
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.)
Walt Disney Studios
The White House
Saudi Arabia: the Royal Palace, Riyadh
Italy: The Vatican Museum
Japan: National Arts Centre, Tokyo
Notable recipients of Diane Lewis / Connoisseur of Malvern sculptures
In the UK: HM Queen Elizabeth II, HM the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, and PM Margaret Thatcher (who received the Precious Platinum rose illustrated in Roses Part One.)
In the USA: President Jimmy Carter, President Ronald Reagan, and President George Bush; also Lady Bird Johnson and Hillary Clinton while they were First Lady.
Other world leaders included Premier Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) of China and two Popes.
Many thanks to Martyn Lewis who provided the information contained in this post. The Diane Lewis Legacy section of the Archive will ultimately include retrospectives of her work while at Royal Worcester, Cranleigh, and Boehm of Malvern as well as collaborations with independent artists.
Images of Connoisseur of Malvern porcelain sculptures on this site are provided for informational and educational purposes only, not for reproduction, resale or advertising. All photographs are copyrighted by their owner as indicated via watermark.