STOKE-ON-TRENT, U.K.-Susan Williams-Ellis, who founded the Portmeirion Group in the 1960s and designed such commercial successes as Botanic Garden and Totem, died Nov. 27. Semi-retired from the company and living in Portmeirion Village in North Wales, she was 89.
Daughter of the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, the creator of Portmeirion Village, Williams-Ellis had an artistic ability that was recognized and fostered early in her life, and after graduating from school, she created some gift items for the shop in Portmeirion Village. In 1960, she and her husband, Euan Copper-Willis, bought A.E. Gray Ltd., a small pottery-decorating company based here and a second company, Kirkham's Limited, the following year. They eventually combined the businesses and began the design and manufacture of pottery products under the "Portmeirion" name.
Williams-Ellis' early designs for Portmeirion included Malachite in 1960 and Agate in 1961. Neither were produced in large quantities but received high critical acclaim. In 1963, she designed Totem, her first commercial success that brought Portmeirion to the forefront of fashionable design. Her pattern Botanic Garden, which many consider the company's signature range, was launched in 1972 and was inspired by a serendipitous find of antique botanical books.
"Our condolences go out to Susan's family, along with our profound thanks for her immeasurable contribution to the company and the pottery industry over the last 47 years," said Lawrence Bryan, president and chief executive officer.
Besides her husband, Williams-Ellis is survived by her sister, three daughters, a son and 11 grandchildren.