Known potter #24: Chris James

Chris James. Io. 1996

This saggar-fired vessel is 27 cm high (including its ceramic stand) and 22 cm in diameter. The 7 cm thick shell is made up of curved and layered, vertical plates of clay. The jagged top has been left unglazed, as though the ovoid form has been torn asunder. The inside surface is glazed a matt black, the outside is dry glazed with terrasigilata decoration. The maker is Chris James, a potter with a workshop currently based at the Keane Ceramics factory site in Somersby, NSW.

We bought this piece at Solander Gallery in Deakin, ACT, in 1996. Solander is primarily a fine art gallery but the 8th National Ceramics Conference was held in Canberra that year and satellite exhibitions had overflowed into all available spaces. The one at Solander, curated by Leonard Smith, included the work of 7 potters but the series of forms based on Jupiter and its moons Europa and Io by Chris James particularly caught our eye. David has always had an interest in astronomy and we both like science fiction. We were astonished to see clay being used in such an innovative way to depict the power and energy of planetary objects, as well as providing a glimpse of their interiors.

James was born in 1964 in Fiji and spent his early years there. He obtained a Ceramics Certificate from the National Art School in 1986, and then set up a studio in Wahroonga, NSW, teaching ceramics part time in the Northern Sydney TAFE system.  In his 1996 directory entry he says  that he jumps between many styles, including saggar and wood firing, reduced stoneware and majolica. He moved his studio to the Keane factory in 2001 and, at around the same time, also adopted the trade name of Chris James Ceramic Design and started to market a range of slipcast porcelain and an associated design and manufacturing service.

Chris James. Chris James. Majolica teapot

Chris James. Majolica teapot. Mark

Our ‘Io’ vessel is unsigned, but other work may be signed with the potter’s full name according to the 1996 directory entry. We have since acquired only one other work attributed to James, a stoneware majolica teaset. The teapot (illustrated) has two impressed marks which I think depict a hand and a paw.


  • Chris James,” The Australian Potters Directory (The Potters Society of Australia, 1996).
  • “Chris James,” Australian Ceramics Directory (viewed 21 March 2009).
  • Keane Ceramics. History (viewed 21 March 2009).
  • Leonard Smith, 8th National Ceramic Conference, Australia (CLAYART Archives, 11 July 1996).
  • Pottery by Christopher James & Tanya Myers (CV, [1996]).


  1. I have a tea pot and a salad size bowl inscribed on the bottom Cannie Ridge AL…. I am assuming that stands for Allan Ridge. Both items are decorated with gum nut blossoms and leaves. I now have them in my Pennsylvania home where they remind this expatriate of Australia!

  2. Hi Hermine, I can see why these pieces would remind you of home.

    My records say that Cannie Ridge Pottery, in Harcourt, Victoria, was set up by Allan Letts (AL) in September, 1976. Letts was born in 1927 in Bendigo and worked as the second wheel thrower master at Bendigo Pottery from June 1940 to 1974. So he is also the AL on some Bendigo Pottery Epsomware.

    This information is mostly from his entry in the 1981 Potter’s Directory. It also says that his wife, son and daughter-in-law were helping out at the pottery, plus some other young potters. I wonder who these were and how long the pottery kept operating?

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