Collective intelligence

Over the last four years, David and I have acquired a number of  slipcast pieces on eBay marked ‘Gunde’ or ‘Gunda’ that stand out, like Ellis, for their modernist design. Until recently, little was known about this pottery except that it was active in Melbourne in the 1950s and 60s.

Blackware vase inscribed to base Gunda 18

This 24 cm high vase with matt black glaze and geometric enamelled decoration marked ‘Gunda 18’ is similar to work produced by the Latvian potter, Maigonis Daga, while he was living in Adelaide after the war. Daga later moved to the United States and made a name for himself there. Prices realised for Gunda on eBay went up for a time, as buyers and sellers speculated that these were Daga’s early work.

Members of the Australian eBay Collectables & Antiques forum became fascinated with the issue and started to share knowledge about Gunda and Daga that they had gathered as dealers and collectors (“Australian Pottery Gunda & Maigon Daga”, 03-03-07 –).  The forum had just agreed from the existing evidence that Gunda and Daga were not the same person (although sharing common West German influences) when ‘Dora’ posted an entry saying that Gunda was Gundars Lusis, a Latvian migrant born in 1928 who had migrated to Australia  with his parents in 1949.

Ross Waterman, a Gunda collector and member of the forum, has now published an excellent article, Discovering Gunda, in Craft Victoria’s Craft Culture 2008. This article draws on the ‘collective intelligence’ of the eBay forum and the author’s own research to provide a first assessment of Lusis as a potter. Waterman was able to contact Lusis’ family, friends and neighbours to flesh out the information gleaned from migration records and the evidence of the works themselves.

The  post-war potteries in Melbourne do not yet have a historian as Sydney does with Dorothy Johnston’s The People’s Potteries but this article shows what can be achieved by tapping the memories of people living and working in Melbourne at the time. There is still much to be learnt; and not a lot of time left to collect the stories waiting to be told.