NELLIE McCREDIE: Passion and Pottery

McCredie Tea Set - Photo by Shapiro Auctioneers | Lot 487

Nellie McCredie, a modest, outstanding female architect, who later became a potter, was passionate about creating a suitable environment for people to live in. Being that there were not many female architects at the time, there were tendencies that her career would be short-lived, but Nellie’s drive and ambitions pushed her far.

Brief History and Background

Nell McCredie, ceramic jug – Photo by Craft NSW

Nellie McCredie was born in the year 1901, on the 27th of May in Concord, Sydney to Robert Smail McCredie and Nellie. Her family fondly called her Nen. She grew up with her mother – Nellie, whom she was named after, and her brothers – Robert (named after their father), George, and Ina. Her uncle, George McCredie, was a politician in that time in NSW and built a state-of-the-art edifice of the time in Guilford, that he called Linwood. Her other uncle, Arthur, was an architect.

Nell (as she was nicknamed), studied architecture at the University of Sidney. She graduated in 1923 and became a draughtswoman for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Project and then for four years (1925 – 1929), she worked for the Housing Commission of Queensland (it was not yet called that at the time).

Nellie McCredie’s Education

Nellie McCredie studied architecture at the University of Sidney. She was under the tutelage of the then first Professor and Dean of Architecture – Professor Leslie Wilkinson (1882 – 1973) and graduated in 1923 with Bachelors in Architecture. This was a notable achievement, as she was one of the first graduates of Architecture and one of the first female Architecture graduates of Australia.

Nellie’s Career History

Uanda – Photo by Wikipedia

Nellie promoted the need for modest structures in suitable environments that supported general wellbeing, largely influenced by her passion for creating suitable dwellings. This was strongly highlighted in her graduation thesis in 1923. Nellie’s studies were directed by the first Professor and Dean of Architecture of the University of Sydney – Leslie Wilkinson.

She began her career working for companies that were contractors for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dorman, Long, and Company. In the space of ten months, she worked in Cairns for many Architects and gathered a wealth of architectural knowledge. In late 1925, she moved southward and got a job with the State Advances Corporation at the Workers’ Dwellings Branch; she worked there as a Draftswoman until early 1929.

After Nellie McCredie served as a draughtswoman at the Sydney Harbour Bridge Project, she relocated to Queensland, lived for a short time at Cairns, and then relocated to Brisbane to work for Worker’ Dwellings Branch of the State Government.

In the course of her working with the Workers’ Dwelling Branch, she designed Uanda (which was a private assignment), and many more projects that could not be linked directly to her as her work because, at that time, designers seldom signed their work.

As part of Nellie’s passion for bettering the lifestyle and living conditions of Australians, she recommended planting a lot of trees and giving a natural feel to the environment like her Uanda design, which exhibited her liking for simple yet stylish structures. Such preferences of hers were largely influenced by Leslie Wilkinson, her University Professor.

Nellie’s other career

McCredie Two Pin Trays – Photo by Shapiro Auctioneers | Lot 463

During Ms. McCredie stay in Brisbane, she learned from the artisan Lewis Jarvis Harvey, the art of pottery making. Her study of pottery was the doorway to another line of career that Nellie explored, leaving architecture for the time. In 1932, she went back to Sydney to practise pottery as a professional potter. In collaboration with her brother Bob (Robert Reginal McCredie – 1910 – 1985) in 1933, Nellie established a pottery (McCredie’s Pottery), and sold her work of art; setting up exhibitions, alongside New South Wales Society of Arts and Crafts, this went on well into the 1950’s. McCredie won the Society’s Elizabeth Soderberg Memorial Award for Pottery by 1951. This award is represented in public galleries in Australia – Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and Shepparton Art Gallery.

Lewis Jarvis Harvey

Nellie had an advantage of better learning, being under the tutelage of Lewis Jarvis Harvey (1871 – 1949), one of the best art and craft instructors of the time, who positively affected generations of art students during his lifetime. He was a most notable art tutor and an important personality and contributor in the art and craft development in Queensland. Lewis Jarvis Harvey was a notable Potter, Wood Carver, Sculptor, and Tutor. His tutoring techniques made him stand out in the art industry throughout the state. He was the major expert in the art and craft movement in Queensland.

Her pottery studio, and later years

Nell McCredie in a corner of her studio in 1936 – Photo by National Library of Australia | University of Sydney

Nellie McCredie ran a pottery studio around a shop (on George Street, opposite Wynyard Railway Station, Sydney, New South Wales), but fired her works in her home (17, Stanley Road, Epping), where she had constructed her kiln. She taught pottery at YWCA, and some of her first students who became potters were Dorothy May Hope (Domay) c.1941, and Emily Bryce Carter c.1932.

Nellie made simple, yet spectacular pieces that earned her the Art and Craft Society’s Elizabeth Soderberg Memorial Award for Pottery in 1947 and 1951. She and her brother Bob McCredie continued to sell their domestic wares to restaurants and gift shops alongside tutoring.

Nellie died on November 2nd, 1968, at age 67. After which Bob ran the pottery, and retired in 1974.

Nellie McCredie was recognized for her Uanda design she did in the 1920’s by the Queensland State Government’s Heritage. The Heritage also listed Nellie McCredie as wanting to bring improvement to the average Australian’s quality of living. She typically was not able to keep up her initial high profile career (which was typical of women in that era – around the World War 2 era) but made her mark with the Uanda design, and then went into making her mark in pottery, producing many other potters in her lifetime.