Mystery potter #29: Val Charles

Stoppered vessel

Stoppered vessel. Base

This handbuilt earthenware  vessel with triangular profile is actually a ten-sided prism. It is 27 cm high (34 with the  flat four-sided stopper, which echoes the irregular shape and angles in reverse).  The form is that of a decanter but I am calling it a vessel as it would not lend itself easily to functional use.

The stained and brushwork decoration, in shades of pale brown, orange and turquoise travels up the body and has an organic feel – we thought snakeskin at first, but this morning the colours suggest mangroves in a river flood plain to me.  This may be right, as the seller said that it had been bought from a gallery in Buderim, Queensland, in 1987.

The incised mark on the base is a V inside an open circle – ‘CV’ or ‘VC’. When researching the mark, I thought that I had an immediate hit with Cheryl Vidulich, a Queensland potter who features in the Pottery in Australia special Queensland edition (February 1986, volume 25, no. 1, p. 69). In 1986, she was based at Lushan Pottery, Proserpine in North Queensland. However, at that time, she was interested in chattering on thrown vessels, and in exploring shino glazes. I haven’t found any evidence yet that she was also making handbuilt pieces in the style of this vessel.

A number of potters have the initials ‘VC’ but I could not find any with a Queeensland connection.


This has now been confirmed as the work of the Sunshine Coast potter Val Charles.


  1. Hi Johanna,

    Thank you for this lead. I will keep an eye out for Val Charles’ work.


    PS: WordPress treated your first comment as spam because it had two URLs in it. Every now and then a real message gets caught in the net.

  2. This piece is definately the work of Val Charles. I was with her yesterday and saw a piece almost identical to it in her home.

  3. My grandmother, Val Charles, is your mystery potter and she was very chuffed to hear people are still enjoying her work. She asked me to post this response to you …

    ‘Hi Judith

    I am Val Charles from Buderim and I was so pleased to see that my pottery is still bringing pleasure, as I retired in 1995. That piece is of a fine stoneware clay and the design is achieved by using a lithium based glaze, which reacted to the clay to form the halo. It is hand built and painted.

    I won the Australian Pottery award at the last Toowoomba pottery festival. The art gallery acquired the winning piece – a square platter – and one of the judges bought the other piece, similar to yours. I did sell from the Buderim Pot Shop and from Port Douglas to Sydney galleries and won quite a few awards.

    I am so pleased that you like it.

    Val Charles’

    1. Hi Sophie and Val,

      Thank you for getting in touch. it is great to hear directly from potters, and to find out more about how pieces like this were made. This vessel has been sold now to a visitor to our gallery who fell in love with it at first sight, but we have two platters in the same style still packed away in boxes.


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