This lidded crock signed and dated “Chris Sanders, 1973” is one of about 30 pots that have came with us to our rented house in Bemboka. The rest of our collection has gone into storage until our new house and gallery is built. David asked for this one, which we bought in 2006, not to be packed away. He likes the rhythm of the form with its narrow base and short, splayed handles, the way the clay has been worked and scored, the mottled, brown-green glaze and the domed, closely fitting lid.
Christopher Sanders was born in Melbourne in 1952, the son of the potter Tom Sanders. In 1973 he was working in his father’s pottery at Eltham, making pots with earthenware clay and commercial glazes fired in an electric kiln, but yearning to experiment with stoneware and reduction firing, which needs the flame of gas or wood. Our crock seems to reflect this, striving towards a stoneware aesthetic while also reflecting a 1960s modernist style akin to the work of David and Hermia Boyd.
In 1974 Sanders set up his own workshop and bought his first gas kiln, then in 1976 he took up a two-year traineeship with Ian Sprague at Mungeribar Pottery. By the late 1970s he was working mainly in porcellanous stoneware but sometimes, like his father, made earthenware pieces for decoration by other artists. This large lidded sphere with its sepia brown drawing of a crab is one of about fifty pieces that he made in collaboration with Donald Green.
On a study trip to the United States, Great Britain and Europe in 1979, he was inspired by the celadon-glazed ware he saw in museums to learn more about reduction glaze techniques and firing processes. He established a studio at Clifton Hill (where he still lives) and later formalised his studies through a Masters Degree by Research (Ceramics) from the School of Art, RMIT, completed in 1999.
We became familiar with his work in the late 1980s and 1990s, investing in several large lidded jars (all packed away now) with oriental shapes and richly surfaced copper red and chun glazes. This shallow bowl with intense purple-red glaze that came down with our garden pots had a disastrous engagement with a vacuum cleaner but still exhibits the richly coloured and glowing surfaces that characterise his style.
Today Sanders is regarded as one of Australia’s master potters. He also teaches, coordinating RMIT University’s ceramics courses, and writes, publishing articles about ceramic techniques and reviewing the work of other potters. In his recent work he has been experimenting with new composite forms and the sculptural effects of exhibiting pieces in trios.
His early works are inscribed Chris Sanders, C. Sanders or C.S., often with a date. Later he began to use the initials CS in the form of an impressed seal.
- Barbara Blaxland, “Chris Sanders, Cook’s Hill Galleries, June 1983.” Pottery in Australia, vol. 22, no. 2 (1983), p.65.
- Carl Andrews, “Harmonics of form and glaze,” Craft Arts International, no. 18 (1990), pp. 47-52.
- Fiona Hiscock, “Christopher Sanders,” Pottery in Australia, vol. 37, no. 1 (1998), pp. 40-42.
- Chris Sanders, “Celadon glaze: a personal journey,” Pottery in Australia. vol. 40, no. 4 (2001), pp. 38-40.
- “Chris Sanders,” Australian ceramics directory (viewed 1 April 2008).