Sturt Pottery

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.]