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.