Mystery potter #26: Frits Jan Massée

FJM. Large stoneware bottle

FJM. Large stonware bottle. Mark

This 44 cm high bottle is thrown from three-and-a-half kilos of brown stoneware clay.  The ribbed and grogged body is glazed in two overlapping layers. The first is a thin layer of brown. The second is a speckled grey glaze that opens to a wide underskirt on one side. Several finger widths at the base have been left unglazed, making a feature of the curved and overlapping glaze layers.  The potter has impressed his initials – FJM – in a large square on the unglazed surface. I know nothing about this potter and my database has given me no clues. I only have a handful of potters with the initials FM and they all have their own distinctive marks or styles. I am guessing that this piece was made in the  1970s by someone sourcing their clays and glazes from local materials, as many did at that time. The finish is not perfect. There is a curious circular indentation in the base which must have occurred before firing as it is chiselled and scored. The size and weight would have made it a challenging piece to throw.  These are also what lends it its appeal. The large bottle shape makes for a good decorator item and the weight lends it stability on the floor.

Postscript:

This turns out to be by Frits Jan Massée, who first worked as a potter at Dromana in Victoria, then moved in the early 1990s to Womboota in NSW. For more about him, see his entry in Australian Potters’ Marks.

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8 comments

  1. The description of this would be better as two layers of overlapping glaze. The first layer is a thin layer of a high iron glaze(either a Tesscha or Tenmoku, not an oxide layer)then a clear (probably an ash glaze) over the top.

    Although I don’t know the maker, the “look” is highly reminiscent of the once fired, middle fire glazes that Ivan Englund was promoting/teaching in the early seventies. He ran workshops around the country.

    Could the circular indentation in the base be a blow out in the firing from an overly thick base? (This could be an option especially if it was raw fired) Also it is not necessary that a man made this piece as it would probably have been made in sections

  2. Hi Johanna, thank you for visiting my blog and for providing this description. As a collector, I find myself enormously ignorant about how an effect is achieved, as I struggle to describe a work. This raises the interesting question of whether I really need to know, in order to appreciate the work. Possibly not, but knowing how something was made can help to date it and put it in a historical context, as you show here. I’ve amended the text. Now back to the books for me or, more importantly, I must go out and talk to more potters!

  3. Ciao,only a few days we have a pottery blog . I live in Turin and my name is Filippo Di Giovanni. With a friend Raffaella, three years ago we have opened a studio were we work with ceramica.We have not yet shown around our creations.

    I would be pleased your comments on our works. thanks
    filippo

  4. I dabbled in pottery throwing in 70’s and my teacher was a man Fritz Massie (not sure on the spelling) He had the initials FJM on his work. He lived in Dromana, Victoria, Australia.

    1. Thank you Cheryl! It turns out that his name is Frits Jan Massée. His daughter has provided us with a detailed biography linked to in the main entry above.

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