We were very pleased to win this 30 cm high coil-built red earthenware vase with beaten and paddled surface at a Sotheby’s auction in May this year. Undamaged, it would have cost more than we could afford, but it has a hairline crack down the side. This has enabled us to acquire our first Marea Gazzard. As a bonus, it came with a smaller undamaged vase from the same series.
Over the last few months both pieces have had pride of place on the mantelpiece in the dining room of the house we are renting. We spend much of our time in this room, which is almost completely filled by our dining table. This has given us an opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the two Gazzards and to like them for their own sakes, not just as a means of filling a gap in our collection.
In the auction catalogue the lot was described as ‘two terracotta vases, each of irregular amorphic baluster form’. I looked up amorphic and it means ‘having no defined shape’ or ‘lacking form’. Gazzard is celebrated for her exploration of form and I think the author must have meant to say ‘anthropomorphic’. Certainly, they are like hollow torsos, with a definite back and front, and a sense of having been caught in motion.
Marea Gazzard was born in Sydney to Greek-Australian parents in 1928. She trained in ceramics at the East Sydney Technical College in 1953-54 and the London Central School for Arts and Crafts in 1956-57. On her return to Australia in 1960, she set up a studio in Paddington and it was here in around 1963-65 that I think our two Gazzards were made. There is a picture in Christine France’s Marea Gazzard: form and clay (Craftsman House, 1994, ill. 8, p. 46) of a series of spherical pots made in 1963. These are also made of red earthenware clay and several of the smaller pots have a similar shape to ours.
Gazzard’s international status as sculptor and craftsperson is well described in France’s book and elswehere so I won’t go into detail here. She is often cited as running counter to the Leach tradition. In a curious reversal, she had a thorough grounding in wheel-throwing techniques under Peter Rushforth at the East Sydney Technical College before turning to hand-building in London under the influence of fellow student Ruth Duckworth.
Our Gazzards are unmarked and this may not have been unusual. A piece in the Powerhouse Museum has been signed and dated Gazzard with a felt-tipped pen after it was fired. However, I have also seen an example in a catalogue with an impressed seal – an M in a double squared-off circle.