Known potters

Known potter #47: Joan Campbell

Joan Campbell. Raku pot. Early 1970s
Joan Campbell. 'Sea', 1969
Joan Campbell. 'Sky', 1969
Joan Campbell. Three sea eggs. Mid 1980s

I spent my childhood in Western Australia and returned there regularly during the years 1975-1997 when the potter Joan Campbell had her workshop at Bathers Beach in Fremantle.  Fremantle was a short drive from my parent’s house in Melville. A trip there for fish and chips at Cicerello’s, a coffee on the Cappuccino Strip and a wander around the 19th century port streets  was always on the agenda.

After each visit home, I would  fly back to Canberra with at least one piece of Western Australian pottery in my hand luggage. I remember taking David to visit the lovely old sandstone gallery at Bathers Beach at least once, and buying pieces there: yet somehow we never brought back a work by Campbell. Perhaps we didn’t then have the eyes to appreciate her raku and high-fired earthenware works; or perhaps we admired the pieces on display but they were  too big to carry home.

This year, we were able to take advantage of a general lull in interest in collectables to purchase three early Joan Campbell works from McKenzies in Claremont – two bowls dated 1969, and a large pot, undated but probably from the early 1970s. We are thrilled to bits with all three and have them displayed in the gallery foyer, with a set of three sea eggs from the mid-1980s which we bought on eBay last year.

Unwrapping our newest acquisitions, we were most surprised by their lightness of colour.  The bright sun, the white sand, the blue-green sea, blue sky and honey-coloured sandstone of the Western Australian littoral is truly reflected in these works.  The sea eggs too are a beautiful sandstone colour, patterned with seaweed from Bathers Beach. “Everything she creates seems to hum with the joy and awe with which Joan sees the world around her, a world she recreates in flowing elemental shapes”, wrote Susan Mitchell in her 1987 The matriarchs, p. 155.

Joan Campbell MBE (1925-1997) was born in Geelong, Victoria, and spent her early years there before moving with her family to Western Australia in 1940. While recovering from the stillbirth of her third child, she took a hobby pottery class, and this led her to pursue pottery as a craft, building a wood-fire kiln in her  Scarborough backyard with her father’s help, and teaching herself to fire it.

In 1959, she began work with Johannes de Blanken, a Dutch potter who had settled in WA. Later, she worked with Eileen Keys (1903-1992), who had resolved to use only locally available materials in her work. In 1966, the two experimented with the raku technique and this became Campbell’s preferred way of firing. Her pieces were mainly earthenware, some thrown and further manipulated, others handbuilt.  She held her first solo exhibition at the Old Fire Station Gallery in 1969. Our two bowls ‘Sea’ and ‘Sky’ are from this time.

Raku is a process where pieces are fired to around 1000°C, then removed while red hot and either left to cool, or plunged into water to cool them, or placed into a sealed bin containing combustible materials. These ignite and create a reduction atmosphere. The smoke also turns any unglazed clay black. If the bin is opened after a short time, this re-oxidises the piece, creating interesting surface effects. Campbell responded to the spontaneity of the process, finding it suited to the colours and surface treatments she was seeking for her forms.

As the only potter in WA specialising in raku, and eager to discuss technical problems with a fellow practitioner, she contacted Paul Soldner, ‘the father of American raku’.  He ended up organising an eye-opening information exchange tour for her to the United States in 1970. In 1971, prompted by Campbell, the Pottery Society of Australia invited Soldner to conduct a teaching tour of Australia. He visited Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.  Campbell herself conducted a three-day raku seminar in Melbourne in August of that year.

Now recognized nationally as an exponent of raku, she was selected with a group of other Australian potters to exhibit at the International Academy of Ceramics Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1972.  She was surprised to find that she had been awarded the coveted Diploma of Art for her entry, a pot now in the V & A collection, and pictured on the front cover of Pottery in Australia, 11/2, 1972. As a titular member of the academy, she was invited to attend a symposium and made two hundred black and red ashtrays for Hammersley Mines to fund the trip. She revelled in overseas travel as a way of furthering her craft, and attended academy conferences into the 1990s.

She presents herself in The matriarchs (p. 166) as “a suburban housewife playing about in the backyard”, but quickly assumed a larger persona, aided by her talent as a public speaker. As well as appearing in a weekly television programme demonstrating and talking about pottery, she conducted workshops in country areas and set up pottery classes at the University of Western Australia for the Guild of Undergraduates.  When the Western Australian Branch of the Crafts Association of Australia (later Craft Association of Western Australia) was set up in 1968, she was elected secretary. She was a founding member of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council in 1973, and a member of the Australia Council from 1974 to 1977.

The MBE after her name was awarded in 1977, two years after she had moved her studio to Bathers Beach. She continued to develop and extend her own work there, and also began to take in trainees. By the twentieth birthday of the Bathers’ Beach workshop in 1995, forty-two people had spent an average of nine-twelve months each under her tutelage. As Grace Cochrane points out (p. 213), unlike other workshop owners of the time, Campbell did not use her trainees as assistants. They contributed to the financial and physical running of the workshop in exchange for  professional development in raku firing and space to work on their own projects.  Joint exhibitions helped to pay the bills.

Photograph by Diane Watson from the
Monument Australia website

Campbell’s preference for large-scale works encouraged public art commissions and these began to take up most of her time from the mid-1980s. While still loyal to clay and the pot form, she also found herself designing, making and erecting large murals, multimedia works incorporating steel, wood and glass, and complex environmental installations. She was preparing for an exhibition when she was diagnosed with cancer late in 1996. Former trainees and friends finished the work using glazes formulated by Greg Daly.  She died on 5 March 1997, just weeks before the exhibition opened.

I find it sad when I visit my family now not to have a gallery on Bathers Beach to visit any more, but the tiles made by Campbell and her trainees in this  monument to the old jetty show part of the legacy she has left.

References

Plus entries in the 1973-1981 and 1990 directories.

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Known potter #46: me

Pots by me

Pots by me

I promised to post a picture of the pots I made at the handbuilding class I attended in the Autumn. Here they are, looking somewhat more interesting than they really are with a bit of Photoshop help. I am actually quite proud of the jug. Jenny Mein pulled the handle, but the rest (all 4 kilos of it) is my work. I think of it as my platonic jug – not the perfect archetype – none of us can achieve that! – but as close to the imperfect copy as you can get. I can’t wait now to do the wheel-throwing course in November!

Known potter #45: Judy Holding

Judy Holding. Vase. 1994.

Judy Holding. Vase. 1994.

Judy Holding. Vase. 1994.

Last weekend while in Canberra I visited Beaver Galleries to see the Victor Greenaway exhibition. In the room next door were sculptures and works on paper by Judy Holding. I did a double-take because I knew we had one of her works in our collection – this handsome ceramic vase hand-painted in shades of ochre, black and blue.

Despite the title of this post, Holding is a visual artist who works in a variety of media. Born in Bendigo in 1945, she completed a Diploma of Fine Art (Painting) at Monash University in 1977 and has been living in Melbourne ever since. In 1979 she started making regular visits to the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory. Her interest in indigenous rituals, social structures and spiritual beliefs informs the imagery she uses in her paintings, drawings and sculptures.

Our vase is  a commercial blank painted in 1994 at a time when Holding was interested in exploring the impact of the ‘balander’ or foreigner in Arnhemland.  A male figure with hat and pipe sits in a small boat.  A female form carrying a dilly bag seems to flee before him. Naked lovers float in abandon while the fully-clothed balander looks on. Various symbols convey ritual or unease.

From Holding’s website, it looks as though she ventured into the decoration of ceramic forms in the mid 1990s as a way of resolving the ideas she was exploring at that time. With our vase, the imagery is revealed as the observer moves around, or turns, it. The narrative is loosely connected, but can be experienced in sections.

A two-dimensional painting dated 1993 entitled ‘Ballander in the landscape’ – the last painting on this page – is harder to read because the eye has to take in all the imagery at once. The images are also more confronting. As a decorative object, the vase can be viewed as a combination of line, colour and pattern, with what is being depicted coming as something of a shock when it is closely examined.

By contrast, as celebrations of the flora and fauna of the kakadu region, the images of birds and trees exhibited at Beaver can be read coherently as two-dimensional works, and even the sculptures are two-dimensional.

 

Known potter #44: Tom Sanders

Tom Sanders. Lidded pot. 1962

This lidded red earthenware jar was made in 1962 by the Melbourne potter and decorator Tom Sanders (1925-2008). It is a substantial piece – 30 cm high -and shows in its imagination and wit the influence of his friend David Boyd, whom he regarded as pioneering some of the best pottery made in Australia.  The sombre rounded form and  teal colouring is enlivened by Miro-like sgraffito drawings. The handles suggest a function perhaps lost in the mists of time.

Too late to appear in Australian art pottery 1900-1950, too early to appear in works like Nine artist potters, and in any case not a participant in the stoneware revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Sanders’ position in post-war Australian art and craft has yet to be critically evaluated. Certainly when he published his memoir Spare the face gentlemen, please in 1993, he was bitter about the lack of recognition he had received from the art world. It is ironic that the book is probably valued more for its illustrations by Arthur Boyd than for its challenging stream-of-consciousness text. Nevertheless, it is a mine of information for anyone interested in Sanders’ work.

His long association with the Boyd family began in the mid-forties at the newly-set-up Arthur Merric Boyd (AMB) Pottery in Murrumbeena. Later, he was one of a number of Melbournians who turned up at the Boarding House in Neutral Bay, Sydney, where David Boyd was staying, and where Guy Boyd had set up a pottery in the backyard. While studying sculpture at the East Sydney Technical College, Sanders worked for a time with Guy as a decorator before joining David and his new wife Hermia in Paddington to help with their ‘Hermia’ ware.

Tom Sanders. Three Ramekins.

In 1949, having completed his studies, Sanders returned to Melbourne. He must have been busy because an advertisement in the Argus shows that, by the end of that year, he was already selling ceramic wares through Georges Department Store under the name ‘Dorian Sands’. He worked at the  Hoffmann pottery in East Brunswick, with John Barnard Knight in South Yarra. and with Arthur Boyd and John Perceval at the AMB pottery, before setting up  his own studio with his first wife Elizabeth in Eltham in 1954.

Eltham at that time was a popular retreat for artists, with a European-style colony at Montsalvat and Clifton Pugh’s Dunmoochin at nearby Cottles Bridge. Heide, home of the art patrons Sunday and John Reed, was just across the river at Bulleen. The Sanders pottery operated in a very similar way to the AMB Pottery, producing a range of commercial wares, with visiting potters, painters and friends, including Arthur and Guy Boyd, helping with the decoration.

In 1959, Sanders took his family to London, where he found himself one of a large group of expatriate artists riding a strong wave of interest in Australian art at the time. The three years he spent in London, Majorca and Normandy were memorable ones and he regretted not being able to establish himself in a way that would have supported a longer stay. He continued to work as a potter and, in Majorca, also made scale models for a series of larger ceramic sculptures but was not able to proceed with them.

Back in Australia, he worked on some of the ideas he had brought home from Europe, aided by a bequest that let him focus on exhibition work. Our pot was made around this time, and shows a new interest in playing with form. It is still a usable functional vessel but with an artistic intent.  A series of lidded vessels and jug forms made in 1964 was called ‘The Un-usables’, to make this explicit.  Also during this period, he made the set of ceramic sculptures inspired by anti-nuclear sentiments described by his son Christopher Sanders in the Pottery in Australia article cited below. These were exhibited in Melbourne and Sydney in 1963, and were mainly well received, but very few sold and, wearying of production-line pottery, he began to look elsewhere for a source of regular income.

Southland Shopping Centre. Mural. 1968

In 1956, he had collaborated with the painter and print maker Lawrence Daws on the first of a series of architectural ceramic murals. The mural form allowed him to design in two dimensions and on a large scale. During the second half of the 1960s and into the 70s he completed a number of commissions. The mural shown here from the City of Kingston image Gallery is one of six that he made for the Southland Shopping Centre in Cheltenham, Melbourne, in 1968. For a while commissions must have come in thick and fast. Also listed in Peter Timm’s Australian studio pottery & china painting are: the National Mutual Centre, Melbourne (1964-5), Dee Why Library, Sydney (1966), Woden Valley High School, ACT (1967), Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne (1969, 1970), Perth Concert Hall (1971) and University of Melbourne (1975).

In the early 1970s, he began to believe that he “could put a ceramic girdle – if not around the Earth, then around part of Australia” (Spare the face gentlemen, please, p. 31). The next few years destroyed this optimism. The Perth Concert Hall mural, which for Sanders was an artistic triumph, did not attract new solo commissions and he found himself with a ton of finished tiles in store. In 1971, he started an uncommissioned work with John Olsen, but fell ill towards the end of the year and required surgery. Luckily, a site for the mural was found at the University of Melbourne, and it was finally installed in 1975.

In the interim, faced with the need to vacate his factory premises, he embarked on a new project to have his designs produced in Japan in the form of tapestries. The tapestries were made, but not without financial difficulties that made it look for a time as though they would never leave Japan. Ultimately, with the help of a Crafts Board guarantee, they were brought to Australia for display in the Perth Concert Hall as part of the Festival of Perth in 1976, where they were exhibited with a set of Arthur Boyd tapestries produced in Portugal. The National Gallery of Australia, who already owned the Boyd tapestries, bought one of Sanders’ works but he and his Japanese collaborators struggled to find buyers for the remainder or investors for new commissions.

Tom Sanders, 'Sur la berge' jug. 1980

In 1978, now based in Port Melbourne, he returned to the making of ceramic tiles and, in the following year, applied unsuccessfully for a Visual Arts Board grant to set himself up again for the production of large scale ceramic murals.  Over the next three years, he returned to pottery, producing a series of hand-painted forms like this jug made in 1980, a muscular handbuilt piece with deeply scored sgraffito decoration in a painterly style. In the late 1960s, he had worked with the painters John Olsen, Fred Williams and Jan Senbergs on a series of decorative plates. In these late works, he is both potter, decorator and artist, covering surfaces with humorous, childlike images.

Many of the colleagues with whom Sanders had started his career as a potter and decorator just after the war moved on to gain recognition as painters or sculptors. He had hoped to break into this world through the public exhibition of his work and the move to forms more likely to be judged as Art with a capital ‘A’. In practice, he always seemed to be following in the shadow of his more famous friends, who nevertheless worked with him to nurture his ambitions. Barry Humphries opened an exhibition at Eltham and teased him about making a living from ashtrays. Fred Williams bought all the plates he made with Sanders although he could ill afford them at the time. The Arthur Boyd illustrations in the book reflect affection and sympathy for his friend’s misfortunes.

Luckily, many of the anti-nuclear sculptures are now in the Powerhouse Museum, together with pieces from the Un-usables series and the ceramic tiles he produced in the late 1970s. The National Gallery of Australia has the tapesty bought in 1977 and also a small number of ceramic works acquired in 2002 as part of the Ruth Komon bequest. The National Mutual Centre and Southlands Shopping Centre murals have been demolished, but the Perth Concert Hall and University of Melbourne murals are in safe-kept places. I am not sure what the National Gallery of Victoria or the Shepparton Art Gallery hold, but the opportunity certainly exists for a critical reappraisal of his work.

References

Additional images

The Ian Potter Museum of Art has kindly given me permission to publish this image of the mural at the University of Melbourne. This is not my image and all rights are reserved.

John Olsen and Tom Sanders. Eastern World. 1971 and 1975.

1975.0050.000.000

Olsen, John (Designer, 1928)
Sanders, Tom (Designer; Ceramicist, 1925)
Eastern World. 1971 and 1975
glazed ceramic tile mural
A: 325.0 x 915.8; B: 595.0 x 559.2
The University of Melbourne Art Collection.
Purchased with assistance from the National Bank of Australasia Ltd, the Visual Arts Board, Australia Council, the Myer Trust and the Charles Duplan Lloyd Trust 1975

Known potter #43: LeRoy Culley

Paydirt Pottery. Genie bottle

Paydirt Pottery. Genie bottle. Marks

This vessel shaped like a genie bottle was made by LeRoy Culley at his Paydirt Pottery in York, WA, in 1983.  The light stoneware form is stained with oxide and decorated with bands of chattered tenmoku and white slip around the body and neck. At 36 cm tall, it is a commanding piece, much larger in reality than it had looked in the photos when we bought it on eBay last month.

Originally from the United States, Culley moved to Western Australia in 1980 after practicing for eight years as a wood firer in Oregon. He had first become interested in pottery in 1967 as an art student at Weber State College, Utah.  He moved to California to study with the Austrian potter, Oscar Beouker, then completed a ceramics sculpture course at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In Western Australia, he started using a gas kiln, which he found gave him more control over the creative process.

This information is all sourced from a feature on Western Australia in Pottery in Australia, 21/2, 1982, pp. 34-35.  I don’t know what happened next, and would be interested to learn more.

Postscript: the York potter Frits Schreuder says Culley went back to the U.S. in 1983.

Known potter #42: Redbyrne Potteries

Redbyrne Potteries. Robert Waterson vase Redbyrne Potteries. Robert Waterson vase. Marks

This 26 cm high stoneware vase  is a particularly fine example of the work produced by Redbyrne Potteries in Shepparton, Victoria, from 1975-2002.

Redbyrne Potteries was located at 225 Old Dookie Road, Shepparton. It  produced a wide range of well-thrown functional stoneware, mostly with a satiny red-brown glaze.  Our vase was made by Robert Waterson, the owner of the pottery and the designer of its production range. It has his personal stamp and is also signed in oxide. Here, the red-brown glaze is enhanced with  blue-green overglazing that complements the well-thrown, rounded baluster form. Records in the State Library of Victoria show that Waterson (1944- ) exhibited as a member of the Victorian Ceramic Group in the 1970s and 1980s.

Throwers who worked for Waterson at Redbyrne included Gilbert Buchanan, Chris Cheer, Graeme Day, Steven Elliott, Robert Henderson, Mark Lepp, Cathy Thompson, Noel Townsend, Robert Waterson and Craig Willis. Works were impressed ‘Redbyrne Potteries Shepparton’ or, as with Waterson’s own work, ‘Redbyrne Potteries’ preceded by the individual potter’s name.

Gilbert Buchanan was  one of the ceramic artists represented in the Ceramics Victoria Inc. 40th Anniversary Award Exhibition in 2009. The brief biography in the catalogue says that he worked at the Old Ballarat Pottery as well as the Redbyrne Potteries. He has also exhibited quite recently at Hullabaloo Studio in Malmsbury, Victoria.

Redbyrne Potteries. Mark Lepp platter Redbyrne Potteries. Mark Lepp platter. Mark

The other Redbyrne potters I’ve identified so far are known only through their work, and I haven’t yet been able to establish a timeline to help with dating. This tenmoku platter with white slip decoration by Mark Lepp is the only work with a Redbyrne Potteries mark that I have seen so far without the characteristic red-brown glaze, and I suspect that it dates from the 1990s.

Twenty-seven years is a long time for a production pottery to operate. In its later years, directory listings show that it specialised in garden and nursery products. In its heyday, it was “one of the largest producers of hand-thrown pottery in Victoria and probably Australia”, according to the Greater Shepparton Botanic Gardens Association, Inc. in a submission to preserve Parkside Gardens as a heritage site.  (Redbyrne Potteries had made the plaques with donors’ names under park seats).

For such a large and long-lived establishment, relatively little has been published about it and I hope this post will invoke some memories to add to the public record.

Postscript: I am now in touch with Robert Waterson, who is working on a brief history of the Redbyrne Potteries for Australian Potters’ Marks.

Known potter #41: Rick Ball

Ball Ceramic Design Studio. Lidded jar. Lid removed
Ball Ceramic Design Studio. Lidded jar. Base
Ball Ceramic Design Studio. Lidded jar

This lidded stoneware jar  stamped ‘Ball Ceramic Design Studio’ was made by Rick Ball, a Canadian potter who studied ceramics at the Alberta College of Art and spent time travelling and working with other potters before coming to Australia. In the 1977 potters’ directory he is living in North Sydney, and  working and teaching at the Willoughby Workshop Art Centre.

Our jar is slab-built with an unusual lid that fits onto the base like a jigsaw puzzle piece. When the lid is in place, it is over 35 cm tall, with a somewhat phallic form. The speckled gun metal green colouring at the top shades to ochre brightened by a diagonal line of white dots and a white band at the base. The number 7-85 on the base dates it to 1985. (A bottle acquired by the Lismore Regional Gallery in 1984 has a similar dating device).

Ball’s work from this period is featured in Pottery in Australia, 21/1 (1982), p.37; and Victor Brosz wrote an article about his transition from “From snow to surf” in Ceramics Monthly v. 32 (December 1984) p. 65+. I haven’t been able to read it yet as this issue of Ceramics Monthly is not available online, but I will add more details when the copy I ordered arrives.

As a resident of NSW, I have access to a range of subscription databases through the State Library. These include: the APA-FT service (via Informit), which indexes key Australian art and craft journals; the two WilsonWeb databases Art Full Text and Art Retrospective, which index international journals like Ceramics Monthly; and the Proquest Australia/NZ Reference Centre, which indexes newspapers and magazines.

Gradually, more and more print material is being digitised and made available online. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, is now almost fully digitised, with Trove providing access to issues up to 1954 and the SMH archive from 1955-1990. There are still gaps – Proquest only goes back to 1996 -but it is amazing what is now accessible in the serial literature. In this case, however, I wasn’t able to find the 1984 volume of Ceramics Monthly in any of the full text services. I haven’t been able to find anything more recent either, so if you know more please let me know.

Postscript:

Here is some additional information from the Ceramics Monthly article:

By 1984, Ball had been in Australia for almost nine years, bringing skills influenced by his training in ‘West Coast free form’. He taught at the Willoughby Workshop Art Centre for the first two years, holding exhibitions in Sydney and Canberra; then spent a year renting space at the Jam Factory in Adelaide before setting up his own studio and working towards his first exhibition in Adelaide in 1981. Early in 1982, he moved to Mudgeeraba on the Queensland Gold Coast and set up the Big Ball Pottery, employing another potter and a sales person to make and sell a line of functional ware through galleries, giftshops, and David Jones.

 

Known potter #40: Tony Barnes

Tony Barnes. Copper red vase, 2010

This luscious copper red vase is one of the pieces we handled hot from the kiln when we visited Tony Barnes at his Moonshine Pottery in Malmsbury, Victoria, earlier this year. Barnes is a potter in the true sense of the word. He works from a home studio in a tiny country town, making wheel-thrown functional domestic ware, and finding a ready market for it in local outlets and selected places further afield such as Bangles Gallery in Cobargo, where we first saw his work.

He has made a living as a potter for over thirty years but he is still fascinated by the technical aspects of his craft. He currently uses a fine porcelaineous stoneware clay, and copper red, cobalt blue, rutile and celadon glazes, striving after the perfect glaze-over-glaze effect on the interior of a dish or bowl, or the perfect brushwork decoration on the surface of a vase.

Our vase is 17 cm high, relatively small for its classic form, but he also works on a larger scale, with some significant pieces on display in the Convent Gallery at Daylesford.  Now an exhibition of his current work called ‘Living with Clay’ is about to open at the Tin Shed Arts Gallery at Malmsbury. It will run from Saturday 23 October to Sunday 21 November.

Tony Barnes. Copper red vase, 2010, Base

Barnes marks his work with an impressed T in a square with a dot under the elongated right side of the cross bar.  In an earlier version of the chop, the mark was reversed. Our vase is also stamped ‘Moonshine Pottery Malmsbury’ and ‘Handmade in Australia’.

Known potter #39: Jenny Orchard

Jenny Orchard. Zigzag vase c.1985

This 25 cm high vase was made by Jenny Orchard in the mid 1980s. It is one of nine pieces that we bought at an estate auction in May this year.  They were covered in dust after years of storage, and some are ‘as found’, but they have all come up well in the wash and now add colour and pizazz to this season’s exhibition.

This piece plays with the vase form, affectionately mocking an era where women had the time to decorate a house with flowers, but also making such rituals fun. Its architectural shape rises from a  flat base in a combination of curves and angles, with a strong forward motion.  Slipcast, and glossily white, it could be a blank intended for decoration. The decals seem casually chosen and placed, until one notices the juxtaposition of stock bird images with line drawings of monsters and cubist female forms.

Jenny Orchard was born in Turkey in 1951, grew up in Zimbabwe, and spent time in London, before emigrating to Australia in 1975.  She obtained a degree from the University of NSW College of Fine Arts in 1979 and has held a range of higher education teaching positions in Sydney.  In 2006, she completed a Masters degree at the College of Fine Arts.

When searching for a critical approach to Orchard’s work, I found most useful Janet Mansfield’s Contemporary Ceramic Art in Australia and New Zealand (Craftsman House, 1995, pp. 130-33). Here Orchard herself is quoted as saying that “two fundamentally absorbing issues, culture and gender, inhabit my clay in a primordial and emphatic way”. Peter Timms says: “Jenny Orchard plays games with functionalism and non-functionalism”. Moira Corby says: “Whether functional or sculptural, Orchard’s eccentric pieces always jolt the viewer to reconsider preconceptions about the use of form, colour and pattern in the context of an object to be looked at”.

Jenny Orchard. Wall vase

This is certainly true of the piece we have decided to add to our permanent collection: this tiny and quite delicate pocket vase which, unnoticed while on the wall, has half-transmorphed into a surrealistic and not entirely beneficial organic female form.

Known potter #38: Montville Pottery

3825

Montville Pottery. Tenmoku vase. Base

This 30 cm high two-handled vase of classical form has a tenmoku glaze breaking to rust in narrow horizontal stripes on the ribbed body, which is also decorated with vertical lines of white slip. The vase is impressed on the base with the single word  ‘Montville’. We now have quite a few Montville Pottery works in our collection. This one, found on a visit to Lismore, presents so well in the gallery that it prompted me to find out more about its makers, and to share that knowledge here.

Montville Pottery was the first craft workshop in the Sunshine Coast hinterland area. It was set up by English emigrants David and Audrey (Bimmy) Everett in 1966, and  quickly gained a reputation for the quality of its production line. The New Zealand potter Royce McGlashen worked there in 1973 on his way to England. Ian and Jennifer MaCrae managed the pottery for the Everetts from October 1973 to December 1975. The pottery was then sold to Ian Lawrence, who leased it to Sonia Anketell from 1976-late 1979.

Our vase dates from the first half of the 1980s, after local entrepreneurs Helen and Peter Brierty had bought into the pottery, and before they left for Thailand in October 1985. The Briertys modernised the pottery and expanded the range from domestic tableware to more decorative pieces like ours.  As part of this process, they invited the Melbourne potter, Stephen Fletcher, to manage the pottery for eighteen months, and he introduced new glazes and techniques.  Alan Stirling then took over as manager until moving away from the district in 1985.

After the Briertys left, Ian Reid, and then Richard Owens, took over  the pottery. I am still not certain of the details from this period, or when the pottery closed, but I do know that it was demolished in 1998 to make way for a new complex called ‘The Pottery Building’ which now houses a variety of shops. Locals and tourists, and the people who worked there, still recall the days of the old Montville Pottery and there have been several moves to bring galleries and working artists back into the main street.

Tentative timeline

Timeline

Corrections and additions to this information are welcome!

Dating Montville Pottery

Montville Pottery. Early work Montville Pottery. Ginger jar. Mark and flyer

Montville Pottery. Leaf dish and utensil holder Montville Pottery. Utensil holder. Mark

The flyer accompanying the ginger jar, on the left dates it to the Everett years. All of the pieces in this image have an impressed ‘Montville’ mark in a quirky font. The ginger jar also has Bimmy Everett’s personal mark, and the pourer has a second impressed ‘VH’ mark for Val Harvey, one of the Everett’s trainees. During the Brierty years all the work bears the title case mark on our vase. The press-moulded leaf and the utensil holder celebrating the pottery’s longevity on the left are both impressed with an upper case ‘Montville’ mark.  This dates them both, I think, after 1985.

Postscript:

Montville Pottery montville pottery

Here are two more marks for Montville Pottery added to the Montville Pottery entry on Identifying Australian Pottery by essjt. One is a pencilled ‘Montville’ with a circle around it, the other a ‘Montville Pottery Est 1967’ printed stamp which also has an impressed stamp saying ‘Made in Australia Inga Szimke’. So here is the name of another person working at Montville for a time, possibly during the 1966-1973 period.

Postscript 2:

I’ve just read in Glenn R. Cooke, “Archaic Investigations”, Craft Arts International, No. 32, 1994-5, p.39 that Glen Manning spent time as manager of Montville Pottery in 1980. This must have been before Stephen Fletcher arrived.

References

  • “Montville Pottery story”, Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser, 29 August, 1974, page 26.
  • Art & Pottery return to the Pottery Centre”, Montville Times News Archive
  • Correspondence with Sonia Anketell, Helen Brierty, Stephen Fletcher, Ian MacRae, Joe Ottaway, Graham Suttor, and others, still in progress.