Mystery potter #25: Asterisk

Stoneware platter

Stoneware platter. Mark

This platter made of an unusual brown stoneware is 4.5 cm high and 37.5 cm in diameter. The sand-coloured glaze applied over an iron oxide base, breaks to brown at the edges, and to a brown shadow where it has been thinly applied. Incised lines define the rim and base, on which a stylised gum tree has been painted in oxides, giving an overall sepia effect.

On the side is a small high-relief medallion with an impressed asterisk or eight-spoked wheel. The seller, who lives in Melbourne, acquired it in the 1980s but couldn’t remember the maker.

Buyers of contemporary Australian pottery on eBay will know this seller well as pdubooks. He has been gradually disposing of a large collection of commercial and studio pottery amassed mainly from Victorian sources in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and salted down in tea chests.  He sold us one of the first items we bought on eBay in 2004,  and we have been regular customers ever since.

His listings often contain small snippets of knowledge which I have been assiduously recording in my database. He is also the source of quite a few of my mystery potters.  He must have visited a large number of outlets selling pottery during his collecting years, buying pieces that pleased him, not necessarily by well-known makers.

I was glad to handle this platter again when I unpacked it, and wondered again who was using such a distinctive mark. Perhaps I will know by the time we open the gallery in the Spring…


  1. Hi Judith

    I recently saw aScandinavian-inspired decorative piece by Gordon MacAuslan (think that’s the spelling!) which also had an asterisk in a circle. It’s too expensive for me to buy, so I can’t compare directly, but it might be worth checking for this one?

  2. Hi Alex, thanks for this lead. Stephen Skillitzi published an obituary for Gordon McAuslan (1913-1996) in Pottery in Australia, 36/2, 1997, 59-61; and (with a lot more pictures) in Craft Arts International, 40, 1997, 106-108. I didn’t see pictures of anything as conventional as this platter, so I’ll wait for a bit more evidence before making a firm attribution!

  3. My uncle Gordon Stewart McAuslan used that motif in all the pieces that we have pottery, paintings Christmas cards and basrelief works. My earliest work of his ( given to me in 1948) a small stylised fish tempura painting has it. Most of the examples I have and have seen in other family members collections have a single vertical line with a multiplication sign superimposed. Some are sloped. He told me in the 70s that he had gone through a Phase of Mayan influenced work in his pottery and the symbol had morphed from previous works.
    His surviving siblings ( younger sister – my mother, and brother) in New Zealand probably know more of the significance to him of the sign.

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