This set of six harlequin ramekins shaped like fish was made by Frank Rock in the 1950s. Ford (1) tells us that Rock was a retired Dutch ceramic engineer who set up a studio in Balmoral, Sydney in 1950 and continued working there until the late 1950s, making a small range of slipcast functional ware, using brilliant glazes and foliage decoration reminiscent of Javanese art .
The fish-shaped ramekins must have been his most popular line, given how many are still around. These are 4 cm high, 17 cm long and 12.5 cm wide and there is a narrow coloured rim around the bowl. Sets turn up from time to time made from a larger and shallower mould without the rim – 3 cm high, 19.5 cm long and 14 cm wide. Of Rock’s other designs, I’ve only seen two ashtrays so far, but I’m keeping my eye out for more.
There is something about fish-shaped ramekins that must have appealed to the 1950s housewife. The Sydney commercial pottery Diana made a fish-shaped ramekin with a master dish in the same shape. I have a full set of these inherited from my mother. I like the Rock ones better though. They have a weight and muscularity that appeals to me, and I like the spiral of colour on the base and the flourished monogam.
About a year ago we bought a set of fish-shaped ramekins made by Jan Gluch that were identical in shape and size to the set pictured here. Dorothy Johnston (2) tells us that Gluch migrated to Australia with his family in 1957. Danish by birth to Polish parents, he trained in Danish ceramic factories, and was an experienced potter by the time he arrived in Australia. He worked for Pates while living at the Villawood migrant hostel, then rented Easton’s Pottery at Willoughby, and made works for Kalmar in 1959, before setting up his own pottery and pottery school at Brookvale in 1960. So I’m guessing that he either worked for Frank Rock for a while in the late 1950s, or took over some of his moulds.
Gluch was one of many potters in Australia who worked in commercial potteries then made the transition to studio pottery in the 1960s and 1970s. His work has a presence in early issues of Pottery in Australia. He passed his interest in pottery on to his son, the potter Ivan Gluch, who is now based on the south-east coast. He was exhibiting some recent work at the Spiral Gallery in Bega. when we visited there yesterday.
The joys of making small connections…
Postscript: Ivan Gluch has let me know that the fish ramekin moulds were at Easton’s pottery when his parents took it over. He also advised me of a few errors in the details of his father’s life in The People’s Potteries, which I’ve corrected in the entry.
- Encyclopedia of Australian Potters’ Marks, 2nd ed., 2002, p.191)
- The People’s Potteries, 2002, pp. 33-34.
- Email from Ivan Gluch dated 1 September 2009.