There are thousands of Australian contemporary potters and no single definitive reference work. The best place to find books on Australian pottery in general or on specific potters is Trove. Only the masters have books written about them. Information about other potters has to be gleaned from directories, exhibition and auction catalogues and book and journal indexes.
Over time the Potters’ Society of Australia has issued a number of printed directories of its members. These contain short biographies of the potter and, in many cases, an illustration of the potter’s mark. The society (now the Ceramics Association of Australia) stopped publishing printed directories a few years ago and now maintains an online Australian Ceramics Directory.
Many potters are not represented in the published directories. If you have a name it is always worth trying an Internet search. Some potters and potteries have a web presence – a personal website, a CV on a gallery website, a listing in eBay or another trading post or an entry in a state association or local society, business directory or travel guide. I maintain a set of bookmarks to Australian pottery websites on delicious and this is growing into a useful resource for potters with a current or archived web presence. Some of this information can be quite ephemeral, however, and many potters and potteries are invisible on the Internet.
The good news is that things are improving daily. The Australian Dictionary of National Biography is now available online, for example, and this has given the Canberra potter Henri Le Grand a persistent web presence. Another emerging resource is the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. The Powerhouse Museum has also seeded search engines with some of its records. A Google search on Reg Preston now retrieves a list of 28 items in the Museum’s collection. A number of the key journals are also publishing their indexes online, or even whole articles.
If you are really interested in Australian contemporary pottery, it is worth trying for a complete set of Pottery in Australia (now the Journal of Australian Ceramics). Back issues are regularly offered for sale through secondhand dealers. Other key journals include Ceramics: Art and Perception, Craft Australia and Craft Arts International.
Volume 29, number 2 (1990) of Pottery in Australia is a special index edition which indexes all of the issues back to the first volume in 1962. The website also has an online index for the years 2000 to date and the publishers are working on the gap years. The online index is an author/title index with short abstracts, whereas the 1990 index is more complete, listing most of the names mentioned in articles.
Art and craft journals are also indexed in services like Austart (1987 to date) and APAIS (1978 to date online but printed indexes go back to 1945). Factiva indexes Australian newspapers and you can access a range of other databases indexing journals and newspapers in the arts and humanities from home via your state library.
Online auction sites are also a useful source of information. Listings do not stay around for long but can provide details about an item or its provenance and pictures of potters’ marks. Australian contemporary pottery is generally listed under the Australian Pottery category on eBay, mixed up with pieces from the earlier period. Make sure you go to the Australian eBay (http://www.ebay.com.au) not the international one. Quicksales, an Australian auction site, also has an Australian pottery category.
Auction houses often publish their catalogues online but older catalogues may not be kept online. A range of subscription services exist to address this problem. Australian Art Sales Digest and Australian Art Auction Records list the prices fetched for auctioned works. and Carters Price Guides list prices items are being sold for in a range of retail outlets.
Recently a new range of services have entered the market that allow you to search and browse forthcoming auctions as well as auction results. Antiques Reporter deals only with Australian and New Zealand auction houses. At the international level, Worthpoint includes eBay auction results and Artfact and The Sale-room.com support bidding on live auctions via the Internet.
Lastly, our online shop contains a growing number of examples of the work of Australian contemporary potters with biographies and photographs of their marks.