Allan James George Lowe trained as a painter before teaching himself pottery. He even built his first kiln with the assistance of an advisor from the Hoffman Potteries. He took more intense pottery classes under the tutelage of Gladys Kelly of the Working Men’s College before he started his potting career full-time. Allan’s earthenware was simple but with sophisticated glazes and minimal decorations. His work was special as it was both influenced by Chinese forms and Aboriginal art. Australia has an indigenous heritage that provides a rich source of inspiration, and this was when Australians were looking for a national cultural identity.
Fowler’s Pottery was founded by Enoch Fowler, an Irish immigrant who arrived in Sydney in 1837. Enoch had a rough start. He lost his family during their voyage to Australia. He also had to change his age just so he can get the government-assisted passage for skilled migrants. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Enoch remarried and had registered the company officially to produce ginger beer bottles, jars, and clay pipes. Fowler’s soon began to mass produce and made products that included edging tiles, bricks, stoneware containers, chimney pots, and laundry tubs. Fowler Potteries is now known as the oldest pottery still in operation in Australia.
Alfred James Pate was growing up with his parents when he developed an interest in the work of art and began creatively making diagrams and carving of things that he liked. This led him to learn the pottery trade at Fowlers Pottery in Marrickville. When he got married, he began making experimental slip pottery in a garage at his backyard and eventually founded Pates Potteries Pty Ltd. After the war, there was an increased demand for decorative pottery. Pates took advantage of this by mass-producing slipware of different colours and sizes. These colourful slip cast domestic wares became the trademark of Pates Potteries and made the company a household name.
The Hoffman Brick and Potteries Limited was one of the largest businesses in Melbourne, producing a variety of decorative wares known as “Melrose Australian Ware”. The Hoffman Company was known for mass producing bricks and entered a period of expansion as soon as the company was established. Their business faced a decline during the 1890s depression, but they joined the Brick Co-operative, which regulated the prices and output of its members’ brickworks. Business picked up as soon as the depression was over. The company then expanded its business interests and bought over a small art-pottery. They eventually became known for their wares, which stood out because of their unique blue and green glaze.
The Florenz Pottery Pty Ltd has one of the humblest beginnings. Florence Maude Williams began her pottery work in a garage. Her husband built an oil-fired kiln for her and their daughter also worked at the pottery. It was a family business. Like other pottery companies during the Second World War, Florenz Pottery gained government contracts to war-related works, so little decorative ware is found around the time. After the war, the company made all kinds of hand-thrown and slip cast ceramics. Florenz also raised many well-known potters. After Florence’s death, her husband sold the pottery, and the company experienced several management changes until its closure in 1980.
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.
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.
In 1856, another talented daughter was born to Benjamin Iram and Hannah Barlow. Florence Barlow would follow her sister’s steps and become one of the most successful artists working at Royal Doulton. When she and her sister, Hannah, joined Royal Doulton together, they decided that Hannah would concentrate on animal motifs and Florence would specialise in flowers and birds. Unlike her sister, Florence used a technique which involved building up layer after layer of translucent slip to create a pattern that stood up in relief from the surface, also known as pâte-sur-pâte. Anyone who owns one of her pieces is very lucky to have a beautiful piece of pottery indeed.
In 1851, a little girl was born to a very talented family. Her name is Hannah Bolton Barlow. She studied under John Sparks, who was a close friend of Henry Doulton. Hannah became the first woman artist to be employed by Doulton potteries. Her love for animals and her knowledge about them is a strong feature of her work. Despite losing the use of her right hand, she learnt to become equally proficient in the use of her left hand. She could even produce up to 20 high-quality pots in a day. Today, her work is in demand due to the unique style and quality of her work.
John McHugh particularly established his pottery at the Sandhill with his three oldest sons to take advantage of the abundant source of clay. His pottery produced a wide range of wares and became a household name. It made a giant contribution to Tasmania’s growing prosperity. McHugh’s is one of the potteries that made their wares easily recognisable by marking them with features such as their name, also known as “Autographed Pottery”. World War 2 may have caused their eventual closure, but their wares have become astonishing and desirable collectibles of great value today.
George Tinworth’s story was a story of determination, courage and exceptional talent. As a boy, he already showed his talent in art by carving butter stamps. His neighbour noticed it and suggested he study at an art school. So when he got older, he pawned his overcoat just to pay the fee for evening classes to study pottery. George began his career with Royal Doulton when John Sparkes advised Henry Doulton to hire him. He was making a name for himself by becoming the premier artist for Royal Doulton. George’s name lives on, not only in his works, but he also has a street named after Him – “Tinworth Street” in Lambeth.
From 1932 up till the 1950s, her regular exhibitions at the Sedon Galleries attracted mind-blowing reviews and her natural talent was aided and developed by academic training. She was a member of the Victorian Artists Society after becoming an established water colourist and graphic artist adn in those early days when radio and programs aired on it were popular, Marguerite gave lectures on design. Before withdrawing from ceramics work, Marguerite produced ceramics for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games Arts Festival. And her works are highly valued and sort after by collectors.
The Royal Doulton is now one of Britain’s foremost and largest pottery companies with over 30,000 products and an international clientele. But it wasn’t always that way. Did you know it started very small? In fact, it was started by a young pottery apprentice with only £100 in a harsh time, a time to either sink without a trace or go on to make a name for himself.
His outstanding work of his stoneware fountain, whiskey still worm and two terracotta fire grate backs catapulted his career.