Marea Gazzard

Known potter #22: Marea Gazzard

Marea Gazzard. Red earthenware pot. ca.1963-65

We were very pleased to win this 30 cm high coil-built red earthenware vase with beaten and paddled surface at a Sotheby’s auction in May this year. Undamaged, it would have cost more than we could afford, but it has a hairline crack down the side. This has enabled us to acquire our first Marea Gazzard. As a bonus, it came with a smaller undamaged vase from the same series.

Over the last few months both pieces have had pride of place on the mantelpiece in the dining room of the house we are renting. We spend much of our time in this room, which is almost completely filled by our dining table. This has given us an opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the two Gazzards and to like them for their own sakes, not just as a means of filling a gap in our collection.

In the auction catalogue the lot was described as ‘two terracotta vases, each of irregular amorphic baluster form’. I looked up amorphic and it means ‘having no defined shape’ or ‘lacking form’. Gazzard is celebrated for her exploration of form and I think the author must have meant to say ‘anthropomorphic’. Certainly, they are like hollow torsos, with a definite back and front,  and a sense of having been caught in motion.

Marea Gazzard was born in Sydney to Greek-Australian parents in 1928. She trained in ceramics at the East Sydney Technical College in 1953-54 and the London Central School for Arts and Crafts in 1956-57.  On her return to Australia in 1960, she set up a studio in Paddington and it was here in around 1963-65 that I think our two Gazzards were made. There is a picture in Christine France’s Marea Gazzard: form and clay (Craftsman House, 1994, ill. 8, p. 46) of a series of spherical pots made in 1963. These are also made of red earthenware clay and several of the smaller pots have a similar shape to ours.

Gazzard’s international status as sculptor and craftsperson is well described in France’s book and elswehere so I won’t go into detail here.  She is often cited as running counter to the Leach tradition. In a curious reversal, she had a thorough grounding in wheel-throwing techniques under Peter Rushforth at the East Sydney Technical College before turning to hand-building in London under the influence of fellow student Ruth Duckworth.

Our Gazzards are unmarked and this may not have been unusual. A piece in the Powerhouse Museum has been signed and dated Gazzard with a felt-tipped pen after it was fired. However, I have also seen an example in a catalogue with an impressed seal – an M in a double squared-off circle.

More on sources

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 #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 François 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.