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Margaret (Peggy) Davies was born in the heart of the Staffordshire pottery industry. No one knew she’d become one of Royal Doulton’s most respected and prolific figurine artists. She had a tough childhood, battling disease and poverty. Fortunately, her artistic talent was noticed by one of her teachers who allowed her more time on creative endeavours. At 12 years old, she won a scholarship to study at the Burslem College of Art. She started working for Royal Doulton during World War II, became a nurse, then came back to being a designer under contract to Royal Doulton. Now, her figurines are very collectable and prices vary enormously.
Besides being an influential potter, Annie Mitchell was also an influential teacher. In 1929, she went to Central Technical College at Brisbane where she studied under L.J. Harvey. Because Harvey so much believed in the hand-built pottery method, Annie also adopted this method of creating potteries. After studying under Harvey, she came back to Adelaide and set up her own pottery school. Her pots were quite distinctive in their style and featured “uneven walls” with embellishments like leaves and gumnuts. Like other notable Australian potters, Annie Mitchell’s pottery pieces are valued at great prices. Until now, collectors from all around the world are on the lookout for these rare pieces.
“An artist who makes a deliberate break with previous styles.” – That’s how one would define Grace Cossington Smith. She was regarded as one of the few artists, if not the first, to initiate modernist art in Australia. Her story started when her parents sent her for drawing classes with Antonio Salvatore Dattilo-Rubbo. This is where Grace was introduced to Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. From the first World War to the second, Grace had already painted numerous pieces. However, she was not widely known until she was in her 70’s. Her legacy lives on in the form of a biennial art award, run by a not-for-profit initiative in honour of her.
Grace Povey Seccombe may be a renowned Australian artist and ceramist, but she wasn’t born in Australia. She moved from England with her husband who was an architect. Her knack for pottery was inherited from her dad who was also a potter himself. Grace studied black and white drawing at Sydney Technical College. She worked from a quite modest studio. She worked with the local clay to hand-model and eventually produce the masterpieces that became widely sought-after up to this day, even among tourists. Her most notable works were her brightly painted, hand-modelled pottery birds and animals. She also made bowls, dishes, and plates which she embellished with Aboriginal motifs.
Born to a bootmaker, Douglas Snelling already had a design business at 16 and was employing other boys. He had a passion for Hollywood films and his dream was fulfilled when he travelled to Los Angeles to work as a freelancer for film studios, doing sketches of stars onset. He became a popular writer and cartoonist in New Zealand. In 1940, Snelling moved to Sydney where he would spend most of his life. He began designing some of Sydney’s shop fit-outs after World War II. He then developed a range of furniture, which was considered the first modernist chairs designed by an Australian. Thus, the “Snelling Line” was born.
Fritz Karl Heinz Lowenstein was born in Upper Silesia, Germany. After making it to England to escape from Nazis, he arrived in Australia aboard the Dunera. He began selling wooden dinnerware despite having very little knowledge of wood. He met Ernest Rodeck, who was making pencil propellers at that time. It was this fateful moment that they struck a partnership and opened their own small workshop. Fred Ward, a designer of Myer Emporium, convinced Lowen to make chairs after noticing his craftsmanship. Fred Lowen then refined his skill. He won several awards like the Dunhill Design Award in 1970. Today, his designs have reclaimed the spotlight alongside those of notable designers like Boyd, Featherston and Parker.