UNA DEERBON: The Jill of All Trades in Art

Una Deerbon fruit platter - Photo by Mossgreen

Una Deerbon, nee – Una Clare Eden Deane was born on the 16th of February 1882, in the town of Woollahra, New South Wales, to Alfred Deane and Clara Deane. She attended a convent school where she partook in a lot of needlework classes, and from there, developed a likeness for fashion design. She later went to Sydney Art School and studied Painting with Julian Ashton. She married Lieutenant Darlow, went to the Chicago School of Art, divorced and remarried Karel Jellinek, who later became Charles Francis Deerbon. She established the Deerbon Pottery and School of Art, and her works were of excellent quality and breathtakingly beautiful.

Una Deerbon has a unique versatility in the art industry that is remarkable. She can be said to be a painter, a fashion designer, a potter, and a general artist. She was also an industrious woman who worked hard to take care of her family as a single mother.

Her marriage and career adventure

Una Deerbon Floral pottery jug – Photo by Leski Auctions | Lot 181

Una was 22 years old, in 1904 when she got married to Richard Darlow (1877 – 1955), a businessman, who was also a part-time journalist and artist at the time. He was born in Northumberland and went by the names George Percival Darlow, also known as Richard Relton Wise. In 1918, Richard Darlow (Lieutenant Darlow) got injured in France.

Una, after her school at the convent, went to the Sydney Art School, and learned painting, under the tutelage of Julian Ashton. She also attended East Sydney Technical College, and studied under Rayner Hoff, between 1913 and 1915.

Una studied at the Slade School in London, and also studied at the Chicago School of Art in the United States.

In 1915, Una gave birth to a daughter named Joan Diana Cynthia Darlow, who was also called Diana Wise-Darlow in London.

Before World War 1, Una returned to Sydney and did a good job designing clothes for David Jones department store. After that, she opened a fashion studio and displayed her work at Anthony Horden, and at David Jones, with the label name Una Darlow, and in some cases – Darlot.

She also opened the Madam Darlot’s Design School in Sidney. Una sold humorous postcards that she made and signed them as Una Darlow.

Una’s divorce and Remarriage

By 1920, Una and Richard Darlow got divorced; and shortly after, Una relocated to Brisbane where she learned the art of pottery and worked as a potter. By 1924, she got married to a Karel Jellinek, a Czech Economist she met there in 1922. Karel Jellinek changed his name to Charles Francis Deerbon, and they named their son Murray Karel Francis Deerbon. Una’s business name also changed from Darlow to Deerbon.

Plans had been made to move to the United States, but it did not happen. Una and Karel’s marriage failed, and she became a single mother of two children. Karel Deerbon relocated to the United States, and Una stayed back in Brisbane and made a living off her pottery business, and pottery school. She also opened a guesthouse to supplement.

Una’s rise in career

Una Deerbon vase with with a continuous moulded seahorse decoration – Photo by Leonard Joel Pty. Ltd.

Mrs. Una Deerbon soon did exhibitions for pottery in 1931, and for needlework in 1932, at the New South Wales Society of Art and Crafts annual exhibitions. In 1933, she showcased over 200 pieces of pottery at Anthony Horden and Sons Department Store Gallery, which earned her media attention (The Sydney Morning Herald), and projection.

Her handwork possessed a delicate appeal, with a fine combination of colours and designs. Her pattern of work varied and had a touch of humour and exuberance.

At the end of that year, Una relocated with her children to Melbourne, where she opened the Una Deerbon School of Pottery (with her daughter Diana Darlow), in which her cousin Jack Castle Harris was her first student. She sold her products through Riddell (an interior design gallery), and She had an exhibition at George, and at the Myer Emporium with 100 ceramics that she took along when relocating to Melbourne. Her designs were mainly vases, jugs, and glazed flora, bowls, bears, masks, and many other items. Her works were also sold at exhibitions in New Zealand. She again gained media promotion when The Argus (December 13th, 1934 edition) recognized her originality.

Eric Juckert joined the Una Deerbon School of Pottery, and Una remained in Melbourne throughout the rest of her career, training potters, and selling her works. The school of pottery raised many more potters who were influenced by her style.

On the 12th of July 1927, Una died at the age of Ninety, at Boronia Victoria.

Una Deerbon’s Legacy

Jug, underside inscribed ‘Deerbon’- Photo by Shapiro Auctions | Lot #438

Una left a strong legacy. Una Deerbon is a household name in pottery and art and craft in general. National galleries (like the Australian National Gallery, the Ballarat Art Gallery, the Melbourne College of Art, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and the Shepparton Art Museum) still hold her works, and her works still price high at auctions, even in 2010. Her works go by the name “DEERBON”. Notable Museums also hold her pieces that are still available.

Jack Castle Harris became a professional potter in the 1930’s and his work was greatly influenced by Una Deerbon’s style. Her style is described as “Spontaneous and Whimsical”. Jack Castle Harris also freelanced at Premier Pottery at Preston, Melbourne. They manufactured “Remued Ware”.

Una’s works are still collectibles to date, even long after her death. A lot of her works were sold via Myers, as a recent piece still had the Myers sticker on. Una Deerbon’s signature still remained long after death, unlike some other potters