Ivan McMeekin

Known potter #56: Ivan McMeekin

Ivan McMeekin. Jug
Ivan McMeekin. Jug. Base

David and I have finally acquired our first Ivan McMeekin pot – a small jug made between 1953 and 1958. It has a very dark reduced glaze with sgraffito decoration over a fine, dense,  stoneware body. The base is marked with McMeekin’s impressed  ‘IM’ next to the crossed pick and shovel seal he designed for the pottery he had just set up at the Sturt Craft Centre at Mittagong, NSW.

It is hard to imagine how extraordinarily accomplished even a modest piece like this must have looked to Australian potters learning to work with stoneware in the Anglo-Oriental tradition for the first time. We are very pleased to have a piece from this period. It  will go into our own collection for now as work by Ivan McMeekin doesn’t turn up very often on the secondary market.

Since starting the Australian Potters’ Marks project two years ago, I have been spending most of my research time preparing topics for publication on the Identifying Australian Pottery group. This is my first “known potter” entry for a while. As the Ivan McMeekin topic has already been published with images of works from the collections of other members of the project (the lucky things), I will just link to it here.

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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

Known potter #2: Les Blakebrough

Les Blakebrough. Carafe. 1962-1973Les Blakebrough and Sturt Pottery marks

Les Blakeborough is one of Australia’s most eminent potters. This carafe, which is missing its stopper, is from the period 1960-1972 when he succeeded Ivan McMeekin as the manager of Sturt Pottery in Mittagong, New South Wales. It has the characteristic impressed LB mark with the letter L raised above and linked to the B and two dots.

The other mark is the Sturt Pottery logo that is still used today on pieces made at the pottery. It consists of a small pick and the Sturt initial. McMeekin, who set up Sturt Pottery in 1953, used a version of this mark with a crossed pick and shovel to indicate the discovery and use of local clays at the pottery.

A similar carafe with stopper (Johnathan Holmes, Les Blakebrough Potter, Sydney: Bay Books, [1989], plate 36) is dated 1962. In both pieces, the handle springs from high on the neck of the pot and joins the rounded body at its centre. Holmes (page 89) says that “the elegance and economy of these works derives from the way in which the handle replicates the curve of the shape of the body”. My piece could be later. The carafe form was part of the workshop repertoire during the 1960s.

Les Blakebrough. Carafe. 1962-1973Les Blakebrough and Sturt Pottery Marks

I have several other carafes from the Sturt Pottery period. This one has a mark without the two dots. There is a similar piece in a picture of the potter in his workshop from 1962 (Holmes, page 90). This suggests that the mark was in use before Blakebrough’s visit to Japan in 1963.

Blakebrough developed a wide repertoire of forms during his time in Mittagong and employed students to make production pottery to his designs. These pieces were sold under the Sturt Pottery mark. I have seen some pieces attributed to Blakebrough because of their technical competence that just have the Sturt Pottery mark.

Les Blakebrough. Charger Les Blakebrough. Charger, Mark

In 1973 Blakebrough moved to Tasmania to develop a Ceramics Department at the Tasmanian School of Art. After a time, he began to use a version of the LB stamp without the two dots, as on this charger with iron and chun decoration, dating from around 1984.

Les Blakebrough. Cylindrical vase Les Blakebrough. Cylindrical vase. Mark

Blakebrough is still making sublimely executed works using a translucent white porcelain which he developed in the 1990s and calls “Southern Ice”. These are fully signed “Les Blakebrough” or have the LB stamp, like this slipcast vase with metal salt glaze decoration.

[The last two paragraphs were updated in July 2009.]