Known potter #1: Peter Travis

Peter Travis. Decorative tile. 1960s.

This is a small unsigned decorative tile made by Peter Travis for a feature wall in the shop of Franรงois Jermani in Australia Square in Sydney, now demolished. It is the only Peter Travis piece I own and I paid quite a lot for it. His work is hard to come by and realises high prices. A wonderful piece dated 1971 sold for $4,800 at a recent Shapiro auction.

Even in the early 1970s Travis was not a potter everyone could afford:

“My work is highly-priced. For two reasons – there is a demand for it and even at these high prices I still can’t make enough from the project to suport myself. Maybe that will come. The low final output makes my work even more valuable” (Nine Artist Potters, p. 25).

Together with potters like Marea Gazzard and Alexander Leckie, Travis is often classed as an artist-potter or sculptor. There is no question of his pieces being functional or non-functional. They are art objects – large slab and coil built forms in organic shapes that use clay as a form of artistic expression.

One of Gazzard’s works from the early 1970s also illustrated in Shapiro’s Past Highlights page sold for over $15,000. A small terracotta boulder from the 1960s was listed on eBay last week for just 99 cents. It will be interesting to see what final price it fetches.

eBay is firming up as a marketplace for high-priced items. The much lower premiums are born by the seller so the closing price is what the buyer pays, not counting delivery costs. There are greater risks: to the buyer in terms of not knowing the seller and not being able to view the item; and to the seller in terms of attracting the right buyers at the right time. Provenance is generally not an issue. Auction houses often don’t publish the provenance of a piece. eBay sellers often do, in order to secure the trust of potential buyers.