David and I have just acquired this large Braemore Carstens jug. It fits right into our Mid-century Modern exhibition and, at 50 cms tall, nicely fills a vacant position on the gallery floor.
Braemore is a commercial pottery set up by Russell Cowan (1892-1962) in Waitara, NSW, in 1939. Already an importer of decorative wares from England and Europe, he saw an opportunity to make home-based pottery as war loomed . Early forms – mostly vases – were organic in style with moulded flowers and leaves .
A house style emerged after the war with white or pale colours, bristol-glazed and hand-painted with tiny flowers, as in this tray from the mid-1950s.
When Cowan died in 1962, his company Russell Cowan Pty Ltd continued under the management of his son Geoff (1928-2004). In the mid 1960s, it entered into an agreement with the German company Carstens to make a range of vases and jugs under the name Braemore Carstens. A trademark request for this name was lodged in October 1965 and registered in May 1968 .
While some sources say that Carstens bought Braemore Pottery, this advertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, August 12, 1968 p. 18 shows that the company continued to trade under the name Russell Cowan Pty. Ltd. making ‘traditional and modern art pottery’ under the Braemore label and ‘continental designed pottery’ under the Braemore-Carstens label. The advertisement also shows that a similar licencing arrangement had been set up for the production of ‘American-styled lamp bases’ with Haeger.
Braemore Carstens ware is usually marked with an embossed B-C and the model number which, on the pieces we own, all begin 10xx. Our jug is 1022, the highest number I have recorded so far. It would be interesting to research the shapes and designs licenced for Australian production and compare them to the full Carstens range.
Listings describe the decoration on our jug as ‘Ankara’ because of its Turkish influences. It was designed by Helmut Scholtis in 1964. The base glaze is a rich teal in colour, with the pattern applied using wax resist techniques and metal containing glazes. German versions were made using a reddish-brown clay while a white clay was used in Australian production.
Geoff Ford  has the Braemore Pottery closing in 1973 but Dorothy Johnston shows that the company continued to operate as a pottery and pottery supply business until 1985. Back in Germany Carstens also closed in 1985 after some years in decline.
The Braemore Carstens story is interesting for a number of reasons. It was unusual for an Australian pottery to license designs in this way. The wares themselves are quite different in style to the more traditional Braemore range, and to the post-war work of other Sydney potteries like Bakewells, Delamere, Florenz, Kalmar, MCP and Pates. Braemore Carstens, Martin Boyd Pottery (with its Melbourne connections) and Fisher Studio stand out in Sydney as exponents of modernist design.
While the Braemore Carstens ware was not designed in Australia, it was made here by Australian artisans and sold through Sydney retail outlets as Australian made. Mostly true to its German models, there was some play with Australian motifs, as in this 1018 vase.
- “Braemore” in More people’s potteries stories / Dorothy Johnston. Cooranbong, N.S.W. : Dorothy Johnston, 2008, pp.12-14.
- Braemore Australian pottery: the early years
- Braemore Larstens [sic] in trade.mar.cs
- “Braemore Pottery” in Encyclopedia of Australian Potter’s Marks / Geoff Ford. 2nd ed. Wodonga, Vic. : Salt Glaze Press, c2002, p. 44.