Archive for the ‘Australian Pottery’ tag

Recommended Reading #2 – Artware to Utility – The story of Modern Ceramic Products and Mingay by Ted Impey

Artware to Utility - The story of Modern Ceramic Products  and Mingay by Ted Impey

Artware to Utility – The story of Modern Ceramic Products and Mingay by Ted Impey

When it comes to Australian pottery books there is a steadily increasing (although still small amount) quantity of publications entering the market place which is great to see. But all too often because these books are privately published they aren’t stocked on any of the large book retailers like Amazon. This means if you don’t know what to look for and where you might not know they exist.

Ted Impey’s stunning monograph Artware to Utility, the story of Modern Ceramic Products (MCP) and Mingay is certainly one of those hidden treasures.

Published in 2012 this 176 page tome is in my opinion the most comprehensive book on the life, times and most importantly for the collector the products of a single commercial pottery in Australia.

Comprehensively researched and illustrated throughout with colour photos of more than 800 pieces from the MCP, Mingay and PGH periods of operation and accompanied by over 100 black and white photos, original price lists, catalogues, advertisements, newspaper clippings, potter’s marks, and foil labels.

It simply cannot be overstated how valuable a reference guide this is for collectors of not only the wares of MCP but also for those with an interest in post war Australian pottery. For me the extensive and well photographed section on the wares produced Orpheus Arfaras alone is worth the price of admission. I confess to doing some serious drooling over those pages!

The book is a limited edition of only 500 and amazingly there is still copies available directly from Ted himself at for $75 plus $10 postage anywhere inside Australia.

In short this book is credit to Ted Impey and his tireless dedication to MCP and it’s story.

This book takes pride of place on my book shelf and is easily on my recommended reading list.


Posted: April 25th, 2014
at 6:36pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Recommended Reading

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Finds #4 – Alice Mylie Peppin Bowl


Alice Mylie Peppin Bowl

Alice Mylie Peppin Bowl

In what turned out to be a nice little purple patch for my treasure hunting I turned up this little Tasmanian gem in a local op shop while on the way to the post office.

Made by Alice Mylie Peppin (know as Mylie Peppin) in 1953 and hand painted with what looks to me to be a Fuchsia type floral design. I have a 10 pieces of Mylie’s works and although this is the oldest piece of hers that I own her body of works go back to the 1930’s and extend right through to the early 1990s.

In that time she achieved so much. She went from being a student Tasmanian pottery icon Maude Poynter to runnning a small commercial pottery from her back yard. She traveled overseas and spend time working and studying in England. She ran the Killiney potters group and managed to fit in a few pottery classes too. To say she kept herself busy was probably an understatement.

Forever the great experimenter it would have been sometimes hard to know who was learning more in her classes, the teacher or the student.

This willingness to experiment combined with a career lasting some 60 years means there is an interesting range or works to collect if you can find them. Perhaps unfairly, this mish-mash of styles has lead to a common phrase being used in conversation about Mylie’s works around dealers and collectors in Hobart and that is “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”.

I do fear however that a large portion of “The Ugly” out there may be either poor imitations of her works or student potters who by coincidence have the same initials. I do know of at least one working potter with the same initials A.M. Penprase who was producing pottery towards the end of Mylie’s career. Thats not to say it’s ugly. It just must be noted that there are other AMPs out there.

This confusion with initials was a problem early on for a young Mylie Peppin who shared the same initials with her teacher Maude Poynter. This prompted Mylie to adopt a distinguishing mark of her own. To differentiate her works from her teachers she inscribed her works with a picture of a small hat with a feather stuck in it.

It’s not certain when Mylie stopped using her hat cypher but my pot from 1953 is pretty late for this mark.

Maybe you have to be Tasmanian to appreciate Mylie’s works. All I know is since moving from Sydney 5 years ago I have certainly developed a real affection for her style.


Mylie Peppin Base Marks

Mylie Peppin Base Marks

Posted: April 24th, 2014
at 7:26pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Finds

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Finds #2 – Diana Waltzing Matilda Jug (UPDATE)

Just a quick update to to my May 1st 2011 post Finds #2 – Diana Waltzing Matilda Jug where I asked if anyone had a spare musical mechanism from a busted jug to replace the one mine was missing.

Well you wouldn’t believe it but I went to a local auction and what did I see but a box lot containing a badly broken Waltzing Matilda jug with it’s mechanism still in place. The replacement is not perfect but it works. The original plywood backing board has suffered an attack by some wood worm but it’s still holding together just nicely.

Not only did I get the mechanism for a price I was more than happy to pay but also thrown in with the lot were 2 Marutomo ware Don Bradman mugs one in perfect condition and another one in a broken but repairable state.

See! All good things come to those who wait.

On that subject I’ve been waiting a long time for a piece of Maude Poynter to turn up. Just sayin…….


Original Diana Musical Movement

Original Diana Musical Movement

Posted: April 24th, 2014
at 5:15pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Finds

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Finds #3 – Derek Smith Pedestal Bowl

Gold lustre Derek Smith Pedestal Bowl.

Gold lustre Derek Smith Pedestal Bowl.

With a full time job and helping with my partners Salamanca market stall on Saturdays it’s not often these days that I get a chance to do a little snooping around the op shops, and Antique shops of Hobart. Rarer than finding the time to go treasure hunting is, finding a treasure when I do go hunting.

I am very happy to report that recently I did have had a chance to get to a shop or two (albeit on the way home from a doctors appointment) and I DID find a treasure indeed! The Derek Smith pedestal vase pictured above is the latest addition to my all too long list of keepers (for the moment).

Standing about 16cm high and 13cm across the top it’s not a terribly imposing piece but it’s big enough to get noticed especially since it’s more than 3/4 gilded and mirror reflective!

There is not much I can add to the Derek Smith story that isn’t already covered by Judith at Australian Pottery at Bemboka on her Australian Pottery 1960’s to Date blog here: Known potter #10: Derek Smith.

Over on Flickr you will find the Identifying Australian Pottery 1960s to Date group which is also run by Judith which had a dedicated Astrix (*) topic dedicated to Derek Smith and a comprehensive list of the marks used throughout his career here: * Derek Smith.

Derek Smith is a Tasmanian icon of modern pottery surpassed only by Les Blakebrough in his celebrity to the point that if you were to tell a shop keeper down here that you collected Modern Tasmanian pottery the answer almost invariably comes back “do you collect Blakebrough or Derek Smith?” although having said that it can be a bit difficult to get anyone down here to look past the standard Campbell and McHugh.


Derek Smith Potters Mark

Derek Smith Potters Mark

Posted: April 24th, 2014
at 3:30pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Finds

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My Favourite Pieces #3 – Newtone Mugs

As I have discussed before on this blog my great love when it comes to Australian pottery has to be the Newtone Art Ware and Trent Art Ware lines produced by the Bakewell Bros’ pottery from the early 1930’s through to the early 1950’s.

Although my collecting of Sydney (and indeed most non Tasmaniann) potteries has slowed to an absolute trickle since moving to Tasmania I have still managed to acquire close to 200 pieces of Newtone/Trent over the past 12 years.

Among this almost 200 pieces there is just about everything from figural pieces, vases (way too many), advertising/salesman’s/souvenir  pieces, through to utilitarian domestic wares.

It is this last category of utilitarian wares though that I find most interesting as so little of it appears on the market. In fact the very idea that Bakewells would choose to produce utilitarian wares in their art ware lines is perhaps a little interesting if not puzzling in it’s self.

It is because of the both the rarity and the fact that they don’t really fit with the majority of Newtone and Trent marked pieces I own that these three mugs rank quite highly amongst my favorite in the 2 art wares lines.

3 Bakewells mugs from the Newtone and Trent Art Wares lines

3 Bakewells mugs from the Newtone and Trent Art Wares lines

The left most mug carries the Trent Mark and the other two the Newtone “Harbor Bridge” style mark of the mid to late 1930’s.

Although I am sure there must be more of these mugs from the Art Wares lines floating around I have only seen 4 of them (3 of which I now own and 1 of which I think lives in WA).

Curiously there are also Tea sets (teapot, sugar bowl, and milk jug) made by Bakewells under the Newtone banner, none of which match the glaze colouring of the mugs I have seen.

If you have any Newtone or Trent Art Ware mugs or other interesting pieces I’d love to hear from you.

Posted: October 27th, 2013
at 4:16pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Favourite Things

Comments: 4 comments

Bits and Pieces #2 – Being Patient

While looking through the National Library’s Trove Website for newspaper articles on the Tasmanian potter Maude Poynter I came across an article from the Mercury dated April 5th 1924 describing an exhibition of Miss Poynters works at Hobart Town Hall.

The article goes to great lengths to describe the works on display by both Miss Poynter and Miss Mace (Violet Mace) that it really makes you wish they had taken a photo or two. Particularly of the Mah Jong set created by Miss Mace (where is it today?!!!).

One thing that struck me though was that in 1924 Miss Poynter was planning to upgrade to an electric furnace once the wires finally reached her home town of Bothwell in Tasmania. This struck a particular chord with me as a recent migrant to a semi rural part of the Apple Isle who is currently waiting on a cable (albeit a different kind of cable) to arrive in our town.

The modern day cable I speak of is the the long awaited roll out of the Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN). The first stage is complete and the lucky few at Midway Point have had their services switched on and are already enjoying high speed internet goodness. From what we can tell Kingston is next on the list for the roll out but that’s still more than 40kms “down the road” from us so we aren’t holding our breath for connection any time soon.

However, we do have an internet connection, we just want a better one. We don’t have to make do or find alternate ways of doing our business it just takes a a couple of seconds longer (or minutes depending on if the fog is blocking our wireless signal) to get things done compared to out big city counterparts or indeed the lucky few at Midway. I don’t know how we would cope waiting for something as important as electricity to makes its way this far south.

A year later though Maude returns to Hobart to hold another Exhibition with Miss Mace and in the Mercury article dated March 25th 1925 it is noted that “in view of the near approach of the supply of power to Bothwell some beautifully designed electric reading lamps were objects of special interest.”.   To put this into a little more perspective, Hobart had its first electric street lamps switched on around 1897. Even my old home town of Hurstville in New South Wales had power by 1910 and was working to get the lines as far south as Sutherland by 1912.

But still Miss Poynter waits…

In June 1928 however, luck finally turns Maude’s way and we see in the June 22nd edition of the Examiner the final approval for connection of electricity to the Ratho pottery at Bothwell was granted.

Maude Poynter moved to Ratho at Bothwell in 1918 and had to wait 10 years to get her lights put on!

If Maude can wait 10 years I guess I’ll have to learn to be a little more patient waiting for slightly better internet…

A photo of Maude Poynter at work in her pottery taken from the Mercury’s “Woman’s Realm” supplement dated October 16th 1935. Interestingly, Maude is still using her old pedal powered potters wheel. Hopefully she has the electric light on though!



POTTER’S ANCIENT ART. (1924, April 5). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860-1954), p. 6. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from

GENERAL NEWS ITEMS. (1925, March 21). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860-1954), p. 13. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from

BOTHWELL COUNCIL. (1928, June 22). Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900-1954), p. 8 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from

Photo of Maude Poynter

Posted: July 10th, 2011
at 11:58am by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Bits and Pieces

Comments: 1 comment

Mystery Potter #2 – Xella, Kella, K Ella

Standing 19cm high and measuring 21cm end to end, this amazingly detailed figure of a North American Blue Jay is another favourite from my collection, unfortunately it’s also a complete mystery!

Marked to the base either Xella 584 or X-ella (Kella, K ella, or K-ella) and bearing a Queensland “We Make it Great in The Sunshine State” sticker, this is either a very interesting piece of late 1980’s Australian pottery or a sticker swapping impostor.

Naturally, I’ve checked and double checked the books, I’ve googled furiously and e-mailed knowledgeable collectors, all to no avail.

Throughout my chats with collectors and dealers regarding this piece, one worrying constant keeps popping up. People keep asking me if I’m sure the sticker belongs to this piece? All I can say is that the sticker looks to be contemporary with the age of the item and also looks to have been in it’s current position for quite some time. I do believe it is Australian made from Queensland but do have to admit that this easily removable sticker is the only thing linking this piece to Australia and Queensland.

Scat pottery were producing similar, highly detailed figures of native and non-native birds in the 1970’s so it’s nothing we haven’t seen from Australian companies before.

The name Xella seems to be of French origin and means “From the Mountain Home”  which seems kind of fitting given the material used to produce this amazing bird.

If my Xella Bird proves to be an impostor I’ll be a little up upset but have to admit, no matter what the outcome, this little birdy still has a place reserved in the shelves of my collection. Granted though, if it isn’t Australian it might be pushed a little towards the back of that shelf. LOL

Posted: May 8th, 2011
at 9:10am by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Mystery Potter

Comments: 2 comments

Finds #2 – Diana Waltzing Matilda Jug

Now, I can’t say I have too many pieces of Diana pottery in my collection.

The number of Diana pieces that have made it onto the “Keepers” list is even smaller (I think seeing a bit of Diana’s Nefertiti stoneware everywhere has kinda put me off the brand. Having said that one of my other Diana keepers is from the Nefertiti range. But that’s a story for another day).

This jug, my most recent find, has most certainly worked its way onto my list of keepers and is fast becoming a favourite of mine.

Modeled by Tony Vacek for the Diana Pottery of Marrickville NSW in 1951, this jug stands a substantial 20cm high and is marked “D51” under the first sheep’s head to signify the year of manufacture. There are 2 or 3 different colourways available and it is said that less than 1000 around 6000 were produced in the nearly 2 years they were in production. What the split was between colour variants I don’t know, safe to say they are all hard to find.

The jug has a recess in  the base for a musical movement which would have played Waltzing Matilda when lifted up. The movements were imported from Switzerland and were so expensive and difficult to obtain that many were sold half price without it, so it’s no surprise this jug doesn’t have one (if you have a spare movement or busted jug with a movement let me know, lol).

There is also a Waltzing Matilda musical mug as a companion to the jug which also came in at least 2 different colour variants. As these mugs and jugs are reasonably rare and highly desirable,  prices these days are substantial so make sure you have plenty of folding stuff in your wallet if you are chasing a complete set. It almost brings a tear to my eye to hear my Dad recall in the early 1990’s a friend had 5 or 6 of these jugs and couldn’t give  them away! How times have changed! What’s worse is the stories of how many Grace Seccombe animals my folks sold in the 80’s for next to nothing! Argh!!

Post Script: Thanks to Tony from the New Zealand Pottery Forum for pointing out Mirek Smisek’s involvement in the design of this jug. The following is an excerpt from the Mirek Smisek – 60 Years, 60 Pots exhibition catalogue:

“We made about 6,000. They were so popular; you have no idea. I did it with Tony Vacek, who was a sculptor. I designed the colour scheme. The colour was painted on, then rubbed off, so that it stayed only in the deeper part, which made it very clear, creating a sculptural feel. Two Czechs designing a Waltzing Matilda jug – the irony of it.” p9, Mirek Smisek – 60 Years 60 Pots,Mahara Gallery, Waikanae,2009

Mystery Potter #1 – Denise – Solved!

A short while ago I was contacted by a woman named Denise to let me know that the mystery potter referred to in my last post was none other than her Mother, Eileen Gunning.

Eileen started the pottery in her Burwood (Sydney) backyard naming it after her eldest child, “Denise”.

The wares produced were sold through the Princes Hotel and another long gone retail establishment which Denise can’t recall.

I tried to e-mail Denise for a little more information but the address she left isn’t working for me and I have not heard back from her.

Denise if you are still out there please contact me again as I’ve got a few questions for you.

So, that’s one mystery solved…..

Can’t be too many left to sort out?! LOL

Posted: May 1st, 2011
at 1:27pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Mystery Potter

Comments: 1 comment

Mystery Potter #1 – Denise

The little Koala ashtray shown below has sat in my cupboard for some years now, long forgotten and covered in dust. Purchased for only a few dollars, I wasn’t worried who made him even though he is signed.

Then, only a month or so back I found the Scottie dog ashtray shown below right by the same mystery potter.

There seems to be no mention of the mystery “Denise” in any of the noted text and a bit of sniffing around revealed I wasn’t the only one with a bit of Denise in the cupboard.

All  the pieces I have seen are certainly well made enough to suggest they are from a commercial enterprise of some level and dating from around the first half of the 1950’s.

I guess this shouldn’t be too hard to sort out, we are already half-way since they are all signed Denise. All we need is the last name. Should be easy right? LOL

If you have any idea who the mystery Denise might be or if you have a Denise in  the cupboard please leave me a comment below.

Posted: February 13th, 2011
at 5:37pm by Tim

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Categories: Australian Pottery,Mystery Potter

Comments: 4 comments

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