Meet the artisans who make our bone china ceramics

Meet the artisans who make our bone china ceramics

by Jennifer Sampson 06.10.2021

Here at Jones & Co, we design each and every one of our products here in Australia. But when it comes to manufacturing these original ceramic designs, we head to our trusted artisans in our partner factories in the Philippines and Vietnam. 

The years we have spent establishing and building up our relationships with these artisans is one of our proudest achievements. In fact, we design ranges specifically for each individual factory and their unique skills and talents based around their speciality and raw materials. And in the case of one factory in the Philippines we have a relationship that stretches back decades, before Jones & Co was even born. 

Our very first bone china factory in the Philippines

One family-run factory in Manila holds a special place in our heart. In fact, this factory was our very first supplier and they make all our favourite bone china items. If you’re a long-time customer of Jones & Co, perhaps you remember our Have You Met Miss Jones range of bone china telephone lamps, cockatoos, white mice, sneakers, robots and owls (oh, so many owls!)? We worked with this factory to hand-craft all those original designs. 

When our founder, Jennifer Jones (aka JJ) first launched her business in 2006, her first call was to this one trusted supplier. The reason? Her parents John and Millie Jones had run a successful export business in the Philippines in the 1970s and ‘80s. And one of their most trusted partners was a family-run factory, helmed by the humble patriarch Jun. 

Over the years, the trio formed an incredible working relationship; Jun’s Manila factory would make English traditional bone china bathroom accessories and Christmas decorations for John and Millie to export to major UK department stores like John Lewis. Jun would visit John and Millie at their home in Bath a few times a year, England and marvel at how his products from Manila were being sold in London and taking up residence in homes all across the UK. 

A new era for ceramics and bone china

Fast forward from the 1970s to 2006 when JJ decided to launch her own business, Have You Met Miss Jones (now known today as Jones & Co). Taking the advice of her father John, she first decided to call up his old suppliers in the Philippines. Top of her list to visit? You guessed it: Jun. 

With a showroom full of every conceivable item fashioned in bone china — think seashells, birds, palm leaves, Christmas decorations and A LOT of votive candle holders — JJ pulled together some samples and got creative with what else could be rendered in bone china. And with that Have You Met Miss Jones — and subsequently Jones & Co — was born. 

Since then, pretty much everything you could think of in bone china has been designed by us, and made by Jun and his team of artisans in Manila. 

But then came the copycats...

Like any business, our designs have been tested under the strain of copycats. We used to have a roaring business in Christmas decorations and votives (remember our feathers and keys?). But with China jumping on the white figurative porcelain bandwagon, cheap inferior copies were popping up in all the major stores. Sadly, Jun’s factory lost a lot of business.

But we were not going to give up on Jun and his team so easily. Undeterred by the rise of the copycats, we persevered with our long-standing relationship and tried to innovate and pivot to keep ahead of the market. Over the years, we have designed lamps, boxes, bowls, mini bird feeders, hanging birds, dogs — anything and everything we could. 

We believed — as did a lot of our customers — in the unmatched beauty and quality of the bone china items produced by Jun’s team. Instead of abandoning his factory, we doubled down on our relationship. We focused on designing highly detailed items that mass retailers could never replicate. 

The next generation

Sadly, in 2017, Jun lost his long battle with cancer. Now, his daughter Erica — a working mum just like us — runs the family business. It fills us with such joy that JJ and Erica, the daughters of John and Jun, continue to work together on our decades-long legacy. First fathers, now daughters. 

But we can’t stop there. We strive season after season to think outside the box with Erica and her artisans. We love to push their limits — and ours — to keep ordering with them. And part of every good relationship is having the ability to really stretch the limits creatively. We have worked so hard with Erica’s team to create a new range of products: our nudes collection of vases, planters and more. 

But first, let’s paint a picture.

The head mould-maker we have worked with at Jun and Erica’s factory since 2006 is Lito, a very conservative Filipino man who takes immense pride in his detailed hand-crafting skills. Over the last 15 years, he has moulded every single design we have asked him to make with aplomb. From trendy sneakers to crinkly paper bags to intricate feathers, Lito has made those moulds to our exact specifications. But then we asked him to start making still life body parts! Think boobs and bums. Oh boy. Poor Lito! 

But Lito has been the consummate professional. He has endured every single direction we’ve given him to make our nude range the best it can be. “Can you please make that bum a little perkier,” we would say. Or “just make those boobs a little rounder”. Awkward! But Lito gets to work to make that mould just as we like it so the design is as good as it can be. We couldn’t be more proud of how our collection of bone china nude vases, planters and ornaments has come to life. 

It delights us to give Erica’s factory big orders for these new items. To see artisans like Lito passionately creating new products for us with the same drive he showed creating those early orders for votives and hanging feathers just warms our hearts. 

Looking beyond design and to the future

Finding makers who are ethically aligned and hold the same company values that we do is very important to us. We could tell you so many stories of factories we have walked in and walked straight out of! Our makers and factories are key to the creation of our original ceramic designs. We visit them twice a year (pre-COVID,  sob!), seeing the same faces, talking to the same people. We talk over email throughout the year, following up on designs, orders and deliveries.

They laugh at us with our designs that push the boundaries of their skill or might be a design that makes them blush with embarrassment (hello, Boobs planter!) But we love them all the more for it. And we hope our customers love the stories behind these products just as much as we like living them. 

Shop our nude collection of vases and planters now.