Known potter #3: Reg Preston

Reg Preston, Decorative bowl, 1956

This is a large bowl made by Reg Preston (1917-2000) for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games Exhibition. It is glazed a pale brown and decorated on the outside with hand painted and incised aboriginal-like motifs. On the base is incised “P Oct ’56”.

Also in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Exhibition were works by Neville Bunning, Mollie Douglas, Dyson Studio Pottery, Ivan Englund, Pamela Hallandal, Harold Hughan, Graham Jones, Eileen Keys, John A. Barnard Knight, Henri Le Grand, Allan Lowe, Marguerite Mahood, Martin Boyd Pottery, Ivan McMeekin, Klytie Pate, Peter Rushforth, Edward Shaw, Dorothy Sutherland and Jeffery Wilkinson (The Arts Festival of the Olympic Games Melburne, 1966, pages 169-71).

This is a fascinating mixture of the old and the new. Allan Lowe, Marguerite Mahood and Klytie Pate, for example, were practicing potters in the pre-war period. Reg Preston, Ivan Englund, Harold Hughan and Peter Rushforth did their training during or just after the war.

The inclusion of two potteries in the exhibition is also interesting. The Martin Boyd Pottery was a company in Sydney operating under that name from 1948-1963. (The connection with the Boyd family was severed in 1950.) Dyson Studio was a semi-commercial pottery operating in Melbourne from 1945-1971.

It seems that the line between art and commerce was often blurred. Jack Knight taught pottery at Royal Melbourne Technical College from 1934-1971 but also produced a commercial line of pottery during the 1950s and 1960s under the name of “Janet Gray”.

Reg Preston, Mug. 1950s

Reg Preston started to train as a sculptor in England before the war but switched to pottery on coming back to Australia. He worked at Cooper and Cooke’s Pottery for two years in 1945-46 before taking the plunge to work full-time as a potter. To make a living he produced a range of domestic wares like this slip-decorated coffee mug, as well as larger decorative pieces like the exhibition bowl.

Reg Preston and Phil Dunn, Ceres Coffee Pot, 1960s

In 1958, Preston and his wife Phyl Dunn set up the Potters’ Cottage at Warrandyte, Victoria, with Gus McLaren, Charles Wilton and Artur Halpern. During the 1960s Preston and Dunn produced a line under the name “Ceres”. This coffee pot is an example of the quirky and bravura style developed for the line, possibly with the help of McLaren, who had worked as a cartoonist for the Melbourne Argus.

Artur Halpern also produced a commercial line under the name “Sylha”.

Preston went on to become an acknowledged master. He switched to stoneware in 1967 and worked well into the 1980s, producing often large pieces with rich glazes and bold abstract decoration.

Reg Preston, Bowl. Base with painted mark Preston.Reg Preston, Ramekin. Base with painted mark P.


  1. Do you have any contact details for the Estate of Reg Preston? We are undertaking a non-exclusive copyright project for artists in the collection of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, and would like to send on some correspondence.
    Many thanks

  2. Dear Marion

    My father in law is Reg’s brother and I am sure he would forward any correspondence.

    Please email me and I will give you his details

    1. Susie, Sorry to bother you. I have been researching and writing up our PRESTON family history for the past 2-3 years now, I had drawn a blank as to what happened to Frances Pearl Smith and her two children after the death of her husband Wilfred Herbert Preston. Last Friday I at last came across a probate notice for George Smith, and came across a reference to Frances Pearl Cordia, so I have been following the trail since then. I came across info on the potter Reg Preston in earlier research, thinking that’s a coincidence (annoying even, when Googling), but just now, his date of birth in Sydney, and your email above of 11 Aug 2008, would appear to confirm that Reg Preston was/is a relative of mine. His great grandfather was my father’s great grandfather.
      I have also tracked down another relative, Barbara Markell Cooper in Sydney, with whom I am in contact by email, who has lost track of her relatives, your side of the family.
      If you are interested in contacting me, please reply to this email. I would be happy to share all the family history I have researched if you would like to find out about it.
      Thank you very much for taking the time to read this far.

  3. Is there a catalogue with price range on items by Reg Preston.
    or another website with photos of his pottery items.

    1. Hi Pat, valuing an item isn’t always easy. The Carter Australiana price guides are a start but only list one or two items by each maker. To get a real feel for values, you will need to monitor completed listings on eBay or find prices realised at auction houses through Australian Art Sales Digest or Australian Art Auction Records. (These are subscription services but you may be able to get access from a library.) For pictures of Reg Preston’s work try searching the Powerhouse Museum’s online catalogue.Google’s Image Search is also worth a try.

  4. In response to the query above, I am writing on behalf of the QUT Art Museum in Brisbane, as we are also collecting non-exclusive copyright for all the works within our gallery. We are in the process of launching a new online collections gallery, for which we would like Reg Preston to be included, as he is in our collection.

    Would it be possible to let me know how I could contact him?

    Kind regards,

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