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All day the slender white branches of the ribbon gums that line the river at the bottom of our property have been exposed by violent gusts of wind. Two nearby fires burn out of control. The one on the Monaro has lined the sky with a smoky haze. The one at Brogo is invisible to us behind the mountains but nearer to home. Meantime, we have done the things we’d usually do on a Tuesday. I’ve responded to emails, catalogued new purchases, driven up to the village to collect mail and buy bread. David has made progress on a new painting while watching ‘Criminal Minds’ on Foxtel. The cats have slept in the sun.
This pale stoneware bottle has a matt glaze in shades of umber, green and ochre over a heavily incised decorative surface. It is 25 cm tall and well-proportioned with a flat base, slender neck and everted lip. I particularly like the verdigris effect of the mottled colouring and the way the stylus has been used to animate the patterned areas that flow around and up the sides of the bottle like an ancient frieze.
We bought it through an online auction as part of a lot that also contained a Wanda Garnsey vase. Not reading the description of the lot carefully enough , I thought that this was the Garnsey until I had unpacked the box and examined the marks. It was the vase that was impressed ‘WG’ while the mark on the bottle is an incised ‘SS’.
While a lot of ‘SS’ potters use their initials to mark their work – Steve Sheridan, Suzanne Startin and Shirley Storey to name a few – none that I have recorded are in this incised form.
This pin dish with slate blue sides and maroon interior is signed ‘A. Winter’. It is a lovely piece with a well-turned foot ring; thick-walled at the base then narrowing to a fine rim so that the intense maroon glaze is seamless from edge to edge. The colouring reminds me of Klytie Pate’s work and this made me think it could be an early post-war piece by a Melbourne maker who had trained at Melbourne Technical College when Pate was teaching there.
After exhausting sources like Geoff Ford’s Encyclopaedia of Australian Potters’ Marks, Peter Timm’s Australian Studio Pottery & China Painting and Australian Art Pottery 1900-1950, I would normally have had to put this in the mystery potter basket. However, a search on Trove for “A. Winter” pottery turned up an article from The Argus Women’s Magazine (“The Art of Pottery“, The Argus, 1 Nov 1949, p. 2 S) about a Mrs A. Winter who was pottery mistress at Swinburne Technical College and known by her fellow potters for her experimental work. The library at the (now) Swinburne University of Technology has also been busy digitising course handbooks and a Mrs A. Winter D.S.T.C. was on the full-time staff and teaching evening classes as late as 1965.
I feel I now have enough information about the maker of this pin dish to call her a known potter, although conventions of the day for naming married women mean that I still don’t know her first name. Also, I’m not sure what the initials D.S.T.C. stand for so I haven’t been able to confirm where she received her formal training. (Do you know?)
Here are the biographies I’ve added to the online catalogue since June:
What an interesting mix of names! Clearly my focus wanders as I move from project to project. Jan Gluch and Studio Fisher have work in our current exhibition. Susie McMeekin’s mark featured in the Journal of Australian Ceramics and needed to be added to Australian Potters’ Marks. Jamie Beeston was promoted from unknown to known potter. And I found the Jo Caddy head vase in a box I was unpacking and couldn’t resist sharing it, with the result that it sold, but at least I still have a record…
David and I have just acquired this large Braemore Carstens jug. It fits right into our Mid-century Modern exhibition and, at 50 cms tall, nicely fills a vacant position on the gallery floor.
Braemore is a commercial pottery set up by Russell Cowan (1892-1962) in Waitara, NSW, in 1939. Already an importer of decorative wares from England and Europe, he saw an opportunity to make home-based pottery as war loomed . Early forms – mostly vases – were organic in style with moulded flowers and leaves .
A house style emerged after the war with white or pale colours, bristol-glazed and hand-painted with tiny flowers, as in this tray from the mid-1950s.
When Cowan died in 1962, his company Russell Cowan Pty Ltd continued under the management of his son Geoff (1928-2004). In the mid 1960s, it entered into an agreement with the German company Carstens to make a range of vases and jugs under the name Braemore Carstens. A trademark request for this name was lodged in October 1965 and registered in May 1968 .
While some sources say that Carstens bought Braemore Pottery, this advertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, August 12, 1968 p. 18 shows that the company continued to trade under the name Russell Cowan Pty. Ltd. making ’traditional and modern art pottery’ under the Braemore label and ‘continental designed pottery’ under the Braemore-Carstens label. The advertisement also shows that a similar licencing arrangement had been set up for the production of ‘American-styled lamp bases’ with Haeger.
Braemore Carstens ware is usually marked with an embossed B-C and the model number which, on the pieces we own, all begin 10xx. Our jug is 1022, the highest number I have recorded so far. It would be interesting to research the shapes and designs licenced for Australian production and compare them to the full Carstens range.
Listings describe the decoration on our jug as ‘Ankara’ because of its Turkish influences and say it was designed by Von Scholtis in 1964. The base glaze is a rich teal in colour, with the pattern applied using wax resist techniques and metal containing glazes. German versions were made using a reddish-brown clay while a white clay was used in Australian production.
Geoff Ford  has the Braemore Pottery closing in 1973 but Dorothy Johnston shows that the company continued to operate as a pottery and pottery supply business until 1985. Back in Germany Carstens also closed in 1985 after some years in decline.
The Braemore Carstens story is interesting for a number of reasons. It was unusual for an Australian pottery to license designs in this way. The wares themselves are quite different in style to the more traditional Braemore range, and to the post-war work of other Sydney potteries like Bakewells, Delamere, Florenz, Kalmar, MCP and Pates. Braemore Carstens, Martin Boyd Pottery (with its Melbourne connections) and Fisher Studio stand out in Sydney as exponents of modernist design.
While the Braemore Carstens ware was not designed in Australia, it was made here by Australian artisans and sold through Sydney retail outlets as Australian made. Mostly true to its German models, there was some play with Australian motifs, as in this 1018 vase.
- “Braemore” in More people’s potteries stories / Dorothy Johnston. Cooranbong, N.S.W. : Dorothy Johnston, 2008, pp.12-14.
- Braemore Australian pottery: the early years
- Braemore Larstens [sic] in trade.mar.cs
- “Braemore Pottery” in Encyclopedia of Australian Potter’s Marks / Geoff Ford. 2nd ed. Wodonga, Vic. : Salt Glaze Press, c2002, p. 44.
Amongst the pots that I rediscovered when unpacking boxes for our new exhibition was this three sided bottle with turned neck. It is glazed a satin black with a diagonally-positioned anamorphic chequerboard square on two sides. We have another work by E. Boak in our collection equally playful in its design. It is a small bowl shaped like a fish, with sponged and airbrushed colours. I guess these date from the eighties or early nineties but I haven’t been able to find any mention of the potter.
My nephew Oliver asked for more pictures of our gallery cats. Here they are on the workroom table keeping an eye out for visitors.
I’ve revised the Galleries page to remove all the galleries that have closed since I first set it up in November 2006. It was starting to bristle with red annotations and its main purpose is to help people find galleries to visit, not to mourn the ones that have closed.
Nevertheless, the websites of the closed galleries were important sources of information about the ceramic artists that they represented so I thought it a good idea to list them here with links to archived copies of their websites:
- Alternburg Fine Art Gallery – Braidwood
- Christine Abrahams Gallery – Richmond
- Cudgegong Gallery – Mudgee
- Fine Woodcraft Gallery – Pemberton
- Freeland Gallery – Paddington, then online
- Fusions – Fortitude Valley
- Gallery Nineteen – Central Tilba
- Legge Gallery – Redfern
- Maleny Artworks – Maleny
- Potoroo – Southbank
The Christine Abrahams Gallery link goes to copies in PANDORA (Australia’s Web Archive) and the others to copies in the Internet Archive. (I don’t think the fine Woodcraft Gallery in Pemberton ever had a website of its own.)
I was very pleased to hear that the National Library of Australia’s Trove service is the winner of this year’s ANZIA Innovation award. Regular readers of this blog will know that in a previous life, I was involved in the birth of Trove and I love watching our aims for the service being achieved step by step as it develops and matures.
Trove might equally have been entered in the Information category, but the Innovation award acknowledges not just the huge amount of new information being made available online through the Library’s digitisation projects and partnerships, but also the way in which Trove improves the utility of the Internet and delivers a new online experience.
I still can’t get over the ease with which I can find announcements of the decision to include an Arts Festival in the 1956 Olympic Games in daily newspapers across the nation (and of course I couldn’t help making a few corrections while I was doing this search). I look forward to reading reviews of the festival itself from my desktop in Bemboka when newspapers are digitised beyond the current coverage limit for newspapers of 1954.