The notable Australian potter, Annie Mitchell, also called Annie Fraser Mitchell, was born in 1875 in South Australia. Her parents were Rev. Robert and Mary Mitchell – she was the eldest daughter of Robert and Mary Mitchell. She lived at 7 Victoria St, Goodwood.
Annie – An Influential Potter and Teacher
Annie was not just an influential potter, but also an influential teacher, remarkably of the “hand-built school”, in the early years of studio pottery, at Adelaide.
Annie attended the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts where she studied wood-carving and china painting from 1915 – at the age of 40. Ten years later after her crafts education, she set up a kiln in 1925 at Goodwood.
Annie’s parents died, then she went to Brisbane in 1929. While at Brisbane, she went to Central Technical College where she studied under L.J. Harvey. Mary Ann MacDonald, her cousin, attended the Central Technical College with her. Harvey so much believed in the hand-built pottery method. As a result, he was never drawn to the ‘wheel’. In essence, he never used the wheel in creating his pottery pieces. And, many who studied pottery under him, including Annie also adopted the hand-crafting method of creating potteries. Although painstaking, Harvey and others who so much believed in hand-built potteries affirm it’s the best way to create really distinctive pottery pieces.
After studying under Harvey at the Central Technical College, Annie came back to Adelaide in 1930. Subsequently, she set up her own pottery school in Adelaide. She adopted an exercise technique similar to Harvey’s. This was called the Mitchell School method.
The pots that Annie made were quite distinctive in their style and featured “uneven walls”. She applied embellishments like leaves and gumnuts, and her finishing was accomplished with colourful glazes. The final outcome is usually stunning. Annie’s kiln was large and spacious. While working in her kiln, Annie remarkably fired up to five hundred (500) ceramic pieces at once.
Annie was able to use clay from a bore and clay dug up in the course of drainage very successfully. She moulded and also baked tons of captivating pottery pieces right there in her own kiln located at Victoria Street, Goodwood. Also, she successfully utilized clay from Teatree Gully for her pottery work. Annie was mostly drawn to natural clays, and will constantly look out for new and fresh varieties of natural clay that she can use for her pottery work.
Marks associated with Annie F. Mitchell’s pottery pieces include;
- A.F. Mitchell Goodwood Sth Aus.
- “Victoria Street, Goodwood – Rev. Robert Mitchell’s manse, 7 Victoria Street, Goodwood
- Adelaide Girls Collegiate School
An ardent collector of Annie Mitchell’s potteries and other top-rated Australian potteries has this to say about Annie and her works;
“Annie who was reported to have lived from 1875 to 1961 was not just influential in the pottery industry but also in teaching. She taught in her own hand-built pottery school situated in Adelaide. Her work reflects similarities to the works produced at Harvey school where she studied. However, she made less formal and simpler pots in terms of the shape and applied decoration. Notably, Annie is featured by Fahy et al, in Australian Art Pottery 1950-1990.
Annie Mitchell’s Pottery Pieces are Collected Till Date
Just like other notable Australian potters such as John Campbell, Grace Seacombe, Maguerite Mahood and McHugh Campbell, Annie Mitchell’s pottery pieces are highly valued to date. Classic and antique pottery items collectors from all around the world are scouting for these rare items.
Here’s how one of Annie’s pottery item, a small jug-earthenware was described;
“Jug, earthenware, hand-crafted by Annie Mitchell, South Australia, 1930-1940. An intricately hand-built earthen jug, hand-built and embellished with naturalistically applied and modeled thistles that extend at an angle across the sides from the handle’s base — interior clearly glazed— exterior glazed with grayish blue lead. It speaks so much of high quality and classic, and thoroughly crafted. This jug is marked ‘A.F.Mitchell/Goodwood/STH.Aust’ – the incision is done with clear glaze under the base.”
Her pottery pieces are collected in huge online retail marketplaces such as eBay, including other online spots where individual collectors also display her pottery pieces. These pieces are valued at great prices — prices that are likely to be better than when the pieces were made.
Annie’s Hand-Built School of Pottery Raised Other Remarkable Potters
Annie trained and influenced other notable potters through her hand-built pottery school established at Adelaide. A report pointed that “Johanna Laugh & F M Reynolds had Mitchell School Connections.” A lot of potters trained in her pottery and became outstanding potters.
Annie died in 1961 at age 86. Although dead (just like other notable Australian potters mentioned above), Annie’s pottery pieces still live on. A good number of them have become the favourites of ardent antique pottery items collectors. There’s no known record about her personal life in terms of marriage and having children.