PATES POTTERY: Playing With Colours

A Pates Potteries slip-cast vase - Photo by Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences | NSW Government

Pates Pottery was established by Alfred James Pate in 1946 at Belmore, NSW, with the help of his brother John and nephew Ron. Pate had before then, learnt the pottery trade where he worked, at Fowlers Pottery in Marrickville. The potteries made by pates targeted the working class market with their colourful slip cast, and employed over 100 workers in the 1950s. The company made its name by producing several varieties of colourful slip cast domestic wares. It was also supplying raw materials to other companies using its CESCO subsidiary. The company’s product marks are illustrated in Geoff Ford’s Encyclopedia of Australian potters’ marks.

Education and Enterprise

Pates Gumnut Gum Leaf Wall Vase – Photo by Vintage Bazaar

Alfred James Pate was born in 1917. Growing up with his parents at NSW Australia, Pates developed an interest in the work of art and began creatively making diagrams and carving of things that interest him. In 1933, his passion moved him to learn the pottery trade at Fowlers Pottery in Marrickville, where he worked in the Bristonware department. After his marriage, Pate moved to 5 Frederick St., Campsie and began making experimental slip pottery in a garage at his backyard. The result was obviously fabulous and a business was born. His wares were sold throughout the neighbourhood. As demand increased, he moved to a factory in Lakemba St., Belmore, where he officially founded and registered Pates Potteries Pty Ltd with the help of his brother and nephew, John and Ron.

Pates Pottery operated from Belmore, Sydney, and soon, the company became known for its colourful variety of slip cast domestic wares, popularly known as REGENT ARTWARE.

The company hired 95 staff at its peak of production in the 1950s and 60s and at a time, the staff count was over 100. The company continued operation right up until 1990.

Post-War and Business

A Pates Potteries slip-casting mould for a vase – Photo by Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences | NSW Government

The post-war dispensation brought about an increased demand for decorative pottery. Pates took advantage of this, and mass-produced diverse sizes and colours of bright and playful slipware that were sold to a vast category of customers. The slipware often featured national and international fauna and flora. The slip was cast in a process that required pouring slip, a liquid solution of clay, into a plaster mould that absorbs water, allowing a layer of clay to adhere to the mould’s surface. The clay shrinks, allowing the mould to be easily removed, leaving the piece ready for drying and firing.

These moulds were usually made of Plaster of Paris and they were highly absorbent and affordable to produce. They are held together using ball and socket projections as well as rubber bands made from old car tyres. If the detail in the moulds is maintained, it can be cleaned, dried and reused in the next operation. There is a specially formulated glaze that will then be applied on the artware using hand sponging, hand-dipping or spraying using a spray gun. With a visit to the Art Museum and visiting the Pates collection, one may be able to gain further insight into the operation of the pates pottery, which has been acclaimed to be one of Australia’s major commercial potteries after the war.

Pottery and Australian History

Swan Vintage Pates Pottery Large Lustre – Photo by Dealvue

The Museum has had a long history of collecting Australian ceramics and is known to have developed a comprehensive collection of beautiful ceramics from various mid-1900s Australian artware producers, thus documenting quite a large aspect of the Australian craft industry. With this collection, it is now easy to examine the processes of technology transfer that is used in the decorative arts, how imported traditions and practices are adopted and imported to local materials and markets, and how distinctly Australian imagery, as well as styles and products are produced. The Australian commercial ceramics industry began to decline due to the combined impact of competition from imported products in the marketplace, and the 66.6% sales tax placed on artwares in 1949. Also with the incursion of pressed metals and plastics into product areas once dominated by ceramics, is also an important factor that affected the production of Australian pottery.

Some Notable Pates Ceramics

Swan Vintage Pates Pottery Large Lustre / Pearlescent

This Original Pates Pottery was produced in Sydney Australia by Pates and stamped original by the company itself. It is also marked underneath with B11. It’s in perfect condition.

Vintage Art Deco Pates “Regent” Pottery Koala Figure

This piece is the original one, and perhaps the most of the original pottery with the “Regent” label and with the crown attached. The koala is bluish/grey in colour and has a tree trunk brown and the ground level green with highlights.

Vintage Art Deco Pates Gumnut Gum Leaf Wall Vase

This Pates wall vase dates as far back as the 1950’s. Black and has the glaze makers mark. It is an excellent piece to have and hold. With no cracks or repairs, there is a chip placed on the bottom point that is not visible when hung.

Antique Pates Style Australian Art Deco Pottery Vase Large

A stunning very collectible Vase with a beautiful ornate design and a Regent Mark. This vase is recorded as one of the most demanded in the Australian pottery market. If you have it, don’t let it slip out of your hands.

Pates Australia Vintage Swordfish Lustre Trough Vase

Pates Australia Vintage Swordfish Lustre Trough Vase – Photo by Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences | NSW Government

Large pottery trough vases are still in stock, made by Pates. It features a marlin with a lustre glaze and has the original Regent seal.

Rare Vintage: The Cow Jumped Over the Moon Nursery Wall Plaque by Pates AUS

A great product of Pates pottery, Belmore, Sydney, this product was made early 1947-65, with Black Underglaze Stamp. You can find a number that is owned by previous buyers and the present condition of most is used with slight or major wears. The firing in most cases is intact.