Reg Preston

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

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Known potter #3: Reg Preston

Reg Preston, Decorative bowl, 1956

This is a large bowl made by Reg Preston (1917-2000) for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games Exhibition. It is glazed a pale brown and decorated on the outside with hand painted and incised aboriginal-like motifs. On the base is incised “P Oct ’56”.

Also in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Exhibition were works by Neville Bunning, Mollie Douglas, Dyson Studio Pottery, Ivan Englund, Pamela Hallandal, Harold Hughan, Graham Jones, Eileen Keys, John A. Barnard Knight, Henri Le Grand, Allan Lowe, Marguerite Mahood, Martin Boyd Pottery, Ivan McMeekin, Klytie Pate, Peter Rushforth, Edward Shaw, Dorothy Sutherland and Jeffery Wilkinson (The Arts Festival of the Olympic Games Melburne, 1966, pages 169-71).

This is a fascinating mixture of the old and the new. Allan Lowe, Marguerite Mahood and Klytie Pate, for example, were practicing potters in the pre-war period. Reg Preston, Ivan Englund, Harold Hughan and Peter Rushforth did their training during or just after the war.

The inclusion of two potteries in the exhibition is also interesting. The Martin Boyd Pottery was a company in Sydney operating under that name from 1948-1963. (The connection with the Boyd family was severed in 1950.) Dyson Studio was a semi-commercial pottery operating in Melbourne from 1945-1971.

It seems that the line between art and commerce was often blurred. Jack Knight taught pottery at Royal Melbourne Technical College from 1934-1971 but also produced a commercial line of pottery during the 1950s and 1960s under the name of “Janet Gray”.

Reg Preston, Mug. 1950s

Reg Preston started to train as a sculptor in England before the war but switched to pottery on coming back to Australia. He worked at Cooper and Cooke’s Pottery for two years in 1945-46 before taking the plunge to work full-time as a potter. To make a living he produced a range of domestic wares like this slip-decorated coffee mug, as well as larger decorative pieces like the exhibition bowl.

Reg Preston and Phil Dunn, Ceres Coffee Pot, 1960s

In 1958, Preston and his wife Phyl Dunn set up the Potters’ Cottage at Warrandyte, Victoria, with Gus McLaren, Charles Wilton and Artur Halpern. During the 1960s Preston and Dunn produced a line under the name “Ceres”. This coffee pot is an example of the quirky and bravura style developed for the line, possibly with the help of McLaren, who had worked as a cartoonist for the Melbourne Argus.

Artur Halpern also produced a commercial line under the name “Sylha”.

Preston went on to become an acknowledged master. He switched to stoneware in 1967 and worked well into the 1980s, producing often large pieces with rich glazes and bold abstract decoration.

Reg Preston, Bowl. Base with painted mark Preston.Reg Preston, Ramekin. Base with painted mark P.

Sources

Henri Le Grand (1921-1978). Jug. 1966.

There are thousands of Australian contemporary potters and no single definitive reference work. The best place to find books on Australian pottery in general or on specific potters is Trove.  Only the masters have books written about them. Information about other potters has to be gleaned from directories, exhibition and auction catalogues and book and journal indexes.

Over time the Potters’ Society of Australia has issued a number of printed directories of its members. These contain short biographies of the potter and, in many cases, an illustration of the potter’s mark. The society (now the Ceramics Association of Australia) stopped publishing printed directories a few years ago and now maintains an online Australian Ceramics Directory.

Many potters are not represented in the published directories. If you have a name it is always worth trying an Internet search. Some potters and potteries have a web presence – a personal website, a CV on a gallery website, a listing in eBay or another trading post or an entry in a state association or local society, business directory or travel guide. I maintain a set of bookmarks to Australian pottery websites on delicious and this is growing into a useful resource for potters with a current or archived web presence. Some of this information can be quite ephemeral, however, and many potters and potteries are invisible on the Internet.

The good news is that things are improving daily. The Australian Dictionary of National Biography is now available online, for example, and this has given the Canberra potter Henri Le Grand a persistent web presence. Another emerging resource is the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. The Powerhouse Museum has also seeded search engines with some of its records. A Google search on Reg Preston now retrieves a list of 28 items in the Museum’s collection. A number of the key journals are also publishing their indexes online, or even whole articles.

If you are really interested in Australian contemporary pottery, it is worth trying for a complete set of Pottery in Australia (now the Journal of Australian Ceramics). Back issues are regularly offered for sale through secondhand dealers. Other key journals include Ceramics: Art and Perception, Craft Australia and Craft Arts International.

Volume 29, number 2 (1990) of Pottery in Australia is a special index edition which indexes all of the issues back to the first volume in 1962. The website also has an online index for the years 2000 to date and the publishers are working on the gap years. The online index is an author/title index with short abstracts, whereas the 1990 index is more complete, listing most of the names mentioned in articles.

Art and craft journals are also indexed in services like Austart (1987 to date) and APAIS (1978 to date online but printed indexes go back to 1945). Factiva indexes Australian newspapers and you can access a range of other databases indexing journals and newspapers in the arts and humanities from home via your state library.

Online auction sites are also a useful source of information. Listings do not stay around for long but can provide details about an item or its provenance and pictures of potters’ marks. Australian contemporary pottery is generally listed under the Australian Pottery category on eBay, mixed up with pieces from the earlier period. Make sure you go to the Australian eBay (http://www.ebay.com.au) not the international one. Quicksales, an Australian auction site, also has an Australian pottery category.

Auction houses often publish their catalogues online but older catalogues may not be kept online. A range of subscription services exist to address this problem. Australian Art Sales Digest and Australian Art Auction Records list the prices fetched for auctioned works. and Carters Price Guides list prices items are being sold for in a range of retail outlets.

Recently a new range of services have entered the market that allow you to search and browse forthcoming auctions as well as auction results.  Antiques Reporter deals only with Australian and New Zealand auction houses. At the international level, Worthpoint includes eBay auction results and Artfact and The Sale-room.com support bidding on live auctions via the Internet.

Lastly, our online shop contains a growing number of examples of the work of Australian contemporary potters with biographies and photographs of their marks.