Australian Prints + Printmaking

I use the National Gallery of Australia’s Australian Prints + Printmaking website quite a bit in my research as a number of potters also work  in two-dimensional media or go on to do so.  Sometimes a snippet of information like a birth date or an exhibition poster turns up only in this resource and I snatch it up for my database. Sometimes I’m able to make a minor correction. I can’t have visited recently, however, as I found out today that it has an entirely new interface! I’ve just spent an hour exploring the new discovery pathways and looking up the printmakers we have on our own walls like GW Bot, Chris Denton and Marina Ky. Even David has an entry there. In 1996, he spent time at Studio One Inc learning to make intaglio prints.  When the National gallery of Australia acquired the studio archive in 2004, an etching of his was included in the archive and now resides in the NGA collection. Fame comes in curious ways.

Australian potters’ marks

Australian potters' marksThe Identifying Australian Pottery group on Flickr has become increasingly involved in the hunt to identify marks. Between us, we are setting up a list of potters identified by the group with links to images of their marks. In my database were descriptions of the marks recorded in the directories published by the Potters’ Society of Australia from 1977-1996.  I’ve added these to the list, giving many potters a web presence for the first time, with the added bonus of searchable descriptions of marks. Go here to see the result:

Australian potters’ marks

Powerhouse Museum now in Trove

I was pleased to read  last week that 75,000 records describing objects from the Powerhouse Museum have been added to Trove.  Now, a search on Mitsuo Shoji, for example, retrieves not only books and articles about Shoji, but also images of works by him in the Powerhouse Museum collection.

Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum has written an insightful blog entry on this deveopment with the tag line Museum collection meets library catalogue. Surprised (and pleased) with the level of integration achieved, he says that this “signals the irreversible blending of museum and library practice in the digital space” and looks forward to increased referrals from Trove to the museum’s own site and the future sharing of user-generated tags and comments.

The museum objects fit slightly uncomfortably into the union catalogue paradigm but fine tuning of the screen presentation will soon address this.  While it seems a bit odd to talk of works and versions when referring to a one-off Mitsuo Shoji bowl, there are many unique items in libraries as well, so this is not a new problem. In such cases, information about the holding agency seems to have a greater significance, and could perhaps be brought forward to the first screen.  The work/version conceptual model will come into its own as more museum collections are added to Trove and the need is addressed to collocate records for objects produced from the same design template that are held in different collections.

Authority control remains one of the big problems for an aggregated service like Trove. The conceptual model supports the grouping of resources by and about a ‘party’ in the People and Organisations zone but the data is not always there to support this. Integrating the museum authority data with the Australian authority file used by libraries will be a big challenge but imagine how much more effective the service would be when this is done!

This is one of the areas where I see crowd sourcing coming into its own. Once there are simple ways to merge or separate ‘parties’ in  Trove and to add or remove resources from lists of works by and about a party, how could a researcher, librarian or museum curator with a little time on their hands resist the urge to do a little cleaning up?



Articles added to Trove

Apologies in advance for a post David tells me is a bit technical.

Trove, the National Library of Australia’s discovery service, has just been enhanced to include articles.  The data comes from  Gale for international journals and Informit for journals indexed for the Australian Public Affairs and Information Service (APAIS).

This means that a search on the Western Australian potter Eileen Keys now retrieves not only Eileen Keys : ceramics, 1950-1986 and Eileen Keys interviewed by Barbara Blackman, but also an article by Eileen Keys herself in Pottery in Australia, v.21, Nov/​ Dec 1982, p.22-25, and Teddy Letham’s obituary published in Pottery in Australia, v.31, no.4, Summer 1992, pp.38-39.

I can’t view either of the Eileen Keys articles online as the articles are too early to have been digitised. However, I can access Gordon Fould’s article on Stephen Bowers in Craft Arts International, v.48, 2000, pp.46-50 through my State Library of NSW membership.

I didn’t realise at first that we are not seeing the most recent articles. The National Library outsourced the hosting of its APAIS data to Informit in the mid 1990s and there are business interests to be protected, so Trove only includes APAIS records for works published up to 2005. In addition, while APAIS has operated in paper form since 1948, the database only includes articles from 1978 onwards.

The coverage of individual titles in APAIS can also vary. Ceramics: Art and Perception and Craft Arts International are both included on the list of titles indexed selectively for APAIS. Surprisingly, Pottery in Australia / The Journal of Australian Ceramics and Craft Australia are  not on the list at all. There are records in the database but the coverage is much sparser than I had realised. 

Across all titles, editorials, news items, book reviews, images of new work and, especially, advertisements are unlikely to have been indexed. Also, the names of potters mentioned in articles may not be included in the indexing data unless they are the main subject. In the longer term, the Library may seek funding to digitise whole issues using the same approach as for newspapers. This would generate full-text indexes of the entire content. In the meantime, having free access to the APAIS data from 1978-2005 is a major leap forward. In particular, I can at last bookmark articles and share them with others!


Here are some more interesting facts:

  • Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier, which I can access through the State Library of NSW, is the most comprehensive source I have found for articles from Ceramics: Art and Perception (1,637 hits from 1997-2011) and Craft Arts International (1,713 hits from 1994-2011).
  • Google Scholar gives the best results for Pottery in Australia / The Journal of Australian Ceramics, with around 850 hits from 1995-2008), compared to 215 in Informit  from 1982-2011 and 116 in Trove from 1982-2005.
  • Informit / Trove both give the best results for Craft Australia with 163 hits from 1977-1988.

Auction catalogues

I’ve just been browsing through the catalogue for Shapiro’s forthcoming auction, Australian Studio Ceramics 1910-1990, and I was pleased to find a section at the end with pictures of many of the potters’ marks.  This will make it a useful research tool long after the pots themselves have been dispersed to new homes. How useful will depend on how easy it is for people to access it over time. Last year’s Australian studio ceramics catalogue is still on the Shapiro website, but chances are that, sooner or later,  the webmaster will need more space and suggest removing old content, or something else will happen that puts ongoing access at risk.

All of Leonard Joel’s old catalogues were lost from public view when Leonard Joel was bought by Bonhams and Goodman last year, and the website was migrated to the Bonhams and Goodman format and search software.  As a result, the links suddenly broke in my blog entry on the 2007 Marvin Hurnall auction.  Broken links may not seem very important when implementing a new website, but auction catalogues and the images they contain are primary sources for art historians, and it is sad to see them vanish so easily from view. (On the bright side, the Leonard Joel catalogues are much easier to search now.)

Australian pottery blogs

A recent comment on one of my posts from a Turin-based potter, inviting readers to visit his new blog, comes at an interesting time, with the Australian Ceramics discussion list talking about a web presence as one of the ways for potters to promote themselves and their works to potential buyers. The discussion list is till talking mainly about websites, but blogs are now emerging as an effective way of bringing work to new markets. The start-up cost and effort is much less and it is a nice, informal way of building up relationships with fellow makers and potential buyers on the Internet, even for potters who already have a website.

Shannon Garson, who is writing a blog for the Australian Ceramics Triennale to be held in Sydney next month, has recently posted an entry on her own blog encouraging artists to blog, and  another on how to get started.  There will also be a panel on this subject at the Triennale.  I’ve been bookmarking Australian pottery blogs in my delicious account as I find them. The numbers are still not large,  but I expect that there will be a burgeoning of new blogs over the next twelve months, and a need to make sure that these are described and safekept as part of the artistic record.

For my bookmarks, I’m single-minded in my pursuit of Australian pottery blogs, but the blogosphere is full of interesting blogs by overseas potters and by artists working in other media. I feel surprisingly connected to this larger world when an artist comments on my blog, or adds it to their blog roll. While it is not entirely good behaviour to comment on another blog solely to promote your own, I was pleased to be visited by the Turin potter, and have just paid a visit in return.

My list of Australian pottery blogs is here:


More galleries please

The Guildford Village Potters in Western Australia have let me know that they have a new website, and I have just added the link to my Galleries page. Doing this reminded me that I still don’t have many galleries listed for the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia or Tasmania.  I can’t believe that these states don’t have more galleries that specialise in ceramics or represent ceramic artists.  If you have a favourite gallery please let me know.

More on sources

This blog has a statistics page that tells me something about its users. The number one referrer is still You can find anything on the Intertubes😦 but the figures do show that a very select audience is finding things of interest here and staying to explore links to other pages.

The statistics page also tells me what links on the blog get used. In the sidebar of the blog, there is a set of bookmarks to websites on Australian pottery. This is a feed from a account where I bookmark and tag websites as I find them. Almost no-one goes to the full set of bookmarks from the blog so I thought that I would say a little more about this feature and why I have included it.

My main Links page acts as a guide to reference works on Australian pottery and is very selective. The account aims to be a comprehensive list of links to Australian pottery websites. Rather than maintaining this as a static html page, I use to bookmark and tag websites as I find them.

I am constantly adding new bookmarks and would be very pleased to hear of websites that I’ve missed.

More on sources

Last week I spent some time browsing through the new Dictionary of Australian Artists Online (DAAO). This contains almost 7,000 biographies of Australian artists. The foundation data is drawn from existing print sources but work is already under way to add new entries. Sixteen indigenous potters are represented, reflecting the research interests of the editor-in-chief, Vivien Johnson. Apart from these, Angela Valamanesh and Peter Travis are the only contemporary potters who yet have entries. Valamanesh is there mainly because of her installation work and Travis because of his work as a designer.

DAAO is still a very young service with a forward-thinking publication model. Anyone can register as a contributor and start creating entries or adding parallel entries to flesh out the historical record. I’ve been thinking about how the daunting task of building up a body of entries for Australian potters might be achieved. Unless this is done, their representation in a resource aiming to “reflect the entire landscape and history of artistic production in Australia” may lean towards potters who ‘cross over’ through sculptural or installation work or go on to work in other media.

Postscript dated 27 September 2009

Since I wrote this, a significant number of entries for contemporary Australian potters has been added to the DAAO. Glenn R Cooke is systematically adding entries for potters represented in the Queensland Art Gallery collection, and several other contributors are raising the profile of various artists working in the ceramics medium.

More on sources

Ford, Geoff, Encyclopedia of Australian Potter's Marks, p.204 (detail)

Geoff Ford’s Encyclopedia of Australian Potter’s Marks documents potters and potteries active before 1975 but includes marks used after this period. I thought it might be useful to provide an index of entries in the encyclopedia for potters active in the 1960s-1970s and beyond. Having marks recorded for these potters provides a good start but collectors will need to go to a wide range of other directories to cover the field, and many marks are still unrecorded.

Alexander, Doug
Ardern, Elsa
Beck, Robert
Blakebrough, Les
Bovill, Gillian
Brereton, Kevin
Carnegie, Francis
Douglas, Molly
Dunn, Phyl
Englund, Ivan
Englund, Patricia
Garnsey, Wanda
Garrett, John
Gazzard, Marea
Gilbert, John
Greenaway, Victor
Halpern, Artur
Halpern, Stanislav
Halpern, Sylvia

Hick, William
Hughan, Harold
Juckert, Eric
Kemety, John
Keys, Eileen
Laycock, Helen
Laycock, Peter
Leckie, Alex
Le Grand, Henri
Levy, Colin
Lowe, Allan
Maddock, Beatrice
McConnell, Carl
McLaren, Gus
McLaren, Betty
McMeekin, Ivan
Memmott, Harry
Mitchell, Cynthia
Moon, Milton

Pate, Klytie
Peterkin, Les
Preston, Reg
Rushforth, Peter
Sadler, Ken
Sahm, Bernard
Sayers, Joan
Schulze, Robert A.
Shaw, Edward
Smith, Derek
Smith, Ian (SA)
Sprague, Ian
Taylor, David
Travis, Peter
Tuckson, Margaret
Warren, Peggy
Welch, Robin
Wilton, Charles