Mystery potter #23: Patrick Flinn

Flinn. Floor vase

This huge (75 cm tall) handbuilt stoneware vase is marked on the side with the impressed stamp  ‘Flinn’.  The surface has been roughly carved and scored to look like a piece of hewn wood and then salt-glazed. We bought it late last year at a Shapiro auction (Australian Studio Ceramics 1930-1990, lot 191). The auction catalogue dates it to around 1975.

This was the first time we had seen an auction dedicated to our direct period of interest since we started on our Australian pottery venture. We viewed the catalogue with some trepidation. It challenged the primary weakness of our business plan – the fact that we will have very little capital left after building the house and gallery to devote to the opportunistic purchase of stock. We will have to start selling soon in order to fund new purchases.

Our primary strengths are the stock we already have in hand and our developing knowledge of Australian contemporary pottery and the prices pieces are starting to fetch on the secondary market.  We therefore went through the catalogue with great care, identifying only those lots that would fill significant gaps in our collection. For instance, we didn’t yet have a Bernard Sahm (lot 182) and we also yearned after an example of Victor Greenaway’s sculptural work from the 1970s (lot 183). Although both of us had been travelling a lot for work, we decided that we had to attend in person and drove up to Sydney for the night, staying in a ‘cosy’ room at the nearby Hughenden Hotel.

The Flinn was not on our shortlist because it was by an unknown maker with no presence that we could find in the published literature or on the Internet. Its size made it an object of conversation at the auction, but no-one else could place the artist either, in spite of quite a bit of knowledge in the room; and this made it difficult for potential bidders to appraise the work and its investment value. I am not sure what made us take a punt and bid high enough to win it.  I think that in the end we just liked it. Now it is spending its days soaking up the hot January sun on the deck of our new house, just outside the workroom, and waiting to be recognised through this entry.

Update 1:  Patrick Flinn is one of the ceramic artists listed in the catalogue for the Victorian Ceramic Group 1973 exhibition at the Gryphon Gallery in Melbourne.

Update 2: Patrick Flinn’s daugher has now confirmed that our pot was made by him: see her comment below which contains biographical details about her father’s life and work.



  1. Hi,
    A former workmate of mine was the son of this potter. Fortunately, a few years ago he gave some information on his father to Geoff Ford. Maybe you know this by now,

    ps. wonderful pottery for sale


  2. Hi

    I recently bought a pottery vase with the name “Flinn” roughly written on the bottom of it. I live in Scotland.The vase looks as though it was crudely made and it is very heavy. The i looks like simon templer from the saint, and the letter n is one big stroke that underlines the whole name flinn. Could this be the same person?, and is there any value attached to the name Flinn.
    I would appreciate your assistance.
    James Robertson

  3. Hi, I recently purchased a brown ceramic jug (fairly rustic) with FLINN stamped on the base, using small square stamps. The stamps were probably purchased commercially rather than hand made. I would be interested to know if this sounds like the same stamp mark on the base of you urn? Best Regards. Louise

  4. Hi – in my 2010 ed of “Carters Everything Vintage” on page 50 is a photo of this vase (at least I assume it is this one) listed with Shapiro Auctioneers. The accompanying text attributes it as “Large Ian Sprague (active 1964-94) and Flinn (active 1970s) stoneware floor vase with textured decorations, salt glaze and impressed ‘Flinn’, Australia c1975, 75 cm high”. I just wondered why Ian Sprage was also mentioned, if it was by Flinn?

  5. Hi Susan, there must have been an error in the data supplied to Carters. (This text appears in the Antiques Reporter entry as well.) There is no menton of Ian Sprague in the original Shapiro Catalogue.

  6. I am Henrietta Flinn, the daughter of your mystery potter whose name was indeed Patrick FLINN. As far as I know all his works were stamped with the ‘FLINN’ stamp as shown in Judith’s photo.

    My father was English and trained as an electrical engineer. In 1964 our family (which also included my mother and three brothers) came to Melbourne as Assisted Passage Migrants. My father had a job as a lecturer in Electrical Engineering at Footscray Technical College (as it was then called).

    He had already become interested in pottery in England and together with a friend built a workshop in the back yard of our house in Gardiner. He also built successive gas-fired kilns there In the early 1970s he was able to give up his lecturing job to become a full-time potter. His main field was stoneware using Bendigo clay but he also experimented with terracotta and raku.

    By the 1990s his growing interested in large hand-built stoneware sculpture meant he could no longer continue working in suburban Melbourne so he and my mother moved to Castlemaine in 1997. He had a small studio in the garden of their house there and also worked at the studio of fellow potters Ray and Ellen Stanyer in nearby Maldon. Sadly he had little time to develop this new venture as he died in 1999 from the complications of kidney cancer.

    Further information on his work would be available from Noel Flood, a fellow ceramic sculpture and close friend.

    1. Oh Henrietta, how wonderful to hear from you. We’ve really enjoyed living with our Flinn pot over the last four years and it is great to have some information at last about its maker. Do you have some of his work? I would be really interested to see some more examples.

    2. Hi Henrietta, I’m a relation through your mother and the Westerbeek and perhaps the Toorop families. I was thinking of Pat’s pottery today and was saddened to learn of his passing. Is Bettina still with us? I live in Wyndham WA with my chum, for over 40 years, Ken Watson who has taken up pottery. He met Pat when Pat started building those huge kilns in your back yard. I’m now a retired old age pensioner and in my old age am becoming more interested in interesting people of my past. Would you indulge me and contact me?

      1. Pieter, I’m so sorry, I’ve only just seen your post! I would love to get in touch. Funnily I was just thinking of your family recently as our mother died on 5 December and it is her funeral today, 12 December. Perhaps Judith would be kind enough to forward my email address to you? Otherwise you can find me on Facebook – I live in Paris, France. I don’t go on my account very often but will look out for you!

        1. Hi Henrietta, great to read your note. Sorry to hear your mother passed away – what an amazing person she was. My chum for over forty years, Ken Watson, and I have lived in the Kimberleys for the last dozen years, the last ten in Wyndham, a town of 800 people, mostly local Aboriginal families. I’m now an unemployed old age pensioner but Ken still works caring for old folks around town. He also does pottery with a bunch of ladies and makes nice stuff. I write doggerel which is published in our local fortnightly newsletter. We’ve never been happier. I’m close to Ken’s family but not to mine. Brother John and I exchange emails at Christmas. Ken reverted to Islam with me in Java in 1993, but like most Kejawinan Sufis we don’t hang around mosques, men and their madness. If you or anyone you care for comes this way we would happily put them up. Love

      2. Hi Pieter, are you the Pieter I met at Telecom in the 1970s and knew at Sydney Uni in the 1980s? I’m not sure I fit into the “interesting people of your past”! Hello to Ken too!

  7. Judith – I forgot to say in my post above how moved I was by your description of my father’s pot:

    ‘I am not sure what made us take a punt and bid high enough to win it. I think that in the end we just liked it. Now it is spending its days soaking up the hot January sun on the deck of our new house, just outside the workroom, and waiting to be recognised through this entry.’

    I think my father would have been very happy to know that an example of his work was living the good life on a sun deck! Thanks for ensuring his work is not forgotten through your energy and enthusiasm.

    I do have some examples of his work and will send you some photos via e-mail (am rather technologically challenged and don’t do Facebook or other forms of social media!).


    1. Hello Henrietta, I used to visit your place in Gardiner a lot with my father, Noel. The Citroen in the driveway, steps up to a verandah (?). Could I write to you privately? via Judith.
      Sincerely, Ingrid.

      1. Hi Ingrid, I don’t know if you remember me, my name was Shirley Owen and I was a student at Melb State College. I babysat you guys a couple of times. Is your dad still alive? I have lots of fond memories of him – he was a lovely man.

      2. Ingrid – I’ve only just seen your post too! You can certainly email me privately, if Judith would be kind enough to forward my email address. I saw your father in Melbourne roughly a year and a half ago. How is he?

        1. Hello Henrietta. Let’s see if we can contact each other. I can remember your mother from times we visited your home in Gardiner. Take care at this time. Ingrid x

          1. Ingrid – I’ve finally gone onto my FB account but can’t find anything from you. Could you send me a friend request?

  8. Hi guys, I have just discovered I also have a Flinn, this one is a small vase and has the same stamp as yours, it is a great piece. Regards Jim.

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