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Who Made You Mystery Bearded Man ?

There are some pieces of pottery which talk to you, and this is one of them 🙂 …I have had this piece for years now and have not been able to identify its origin. Originally purchased at an auction simply because it really stood out to me.

From the distance, when I first saw this piece I thought it was a piece of 1970s Australian Studio Pottery…in the style of Jo Caddy, but the more I study it, the more I am inclined to think it is from Europe…and possibly very old.

I have done a bit of research on “bearded man jugs” (from the 17th century, and Toby jugs but not come up with anything like it.

It’s obviously hand made, wheel thrown with an applied and engraved decoration and then fired in a wood kiln firing – there are areas of Ash and possibly even small areas of salt glaze.

There is just something about the condition of the clay and the colour of the oxides used that says very old. Also I cant think of a reason an Australian potter would put a Dutch windmill as a motif on a jug – unless they were emulating the style of jug from the 17th 18th Century.

It is at the same time quite crudely made, but also displays a very high level of skill and finesse in the decoration, formation of the handle and other small details. The walls are an even thickness. It is not too heavy, not too light. ….and just look at the beautiful little bird in flight, the leaves, and all the small details.

Quite an enigma, my goatee’d man.

I posted this entry on the first incarnation of this website years ago, and the best ideas then were as follows:

  • From a Dutch reader –  “not a Dutch Windmill…but a Spanish Windmill….and looking very much like Don Quixote” 
  • From another reader –  a “Hungarian Miska Mug, depicting a Hussar” – it does bear resemblance to these jugs, although all the ones I can find are glazed faience earthenware 
  • And another – possibly Japanese? – There is a windmill style similar to this in Japan. 

I would love to hear from readers in the comments section as to what your thoughts are on this piece, and hopefully one day the origin will be revealed. 

Click on any image below to bring up gallery style larger scrolling images: 

 

Ondine Design – Gerald Benney for Ridgway Potteries 1965

Gerald Benney (1930-2008) is well known as a very important 20th Century Silversmith in both the specialist and mass markets where his attractive “bark finish” became a signature style. You can read more about his work in his Obituary in the Guardian HERE. 

His work in Ceramics is less known and documented – and the only confirmed record of ceramics he designed I can find is for Ridgway Potteries in 1965 when he designed the Ridgway “Ondine” series on a form which he also designed, called “Albion”.

There are some other designs which appear to be from his hand, but I am yet to confirm he is the designer.

“Ondine” hits the perfect balance between form and decoration on his very elegant modernist forms – which have a strong Scandinavian influence. Many of Benney’s designs have that Scandinavian look about them – possibly an influence from his early in career work with Norwegian designer Berger Bergersen, and the influence of Georg Jensen designs.

The pattern on his Ondine design makes me think immediately of the tines of his designs for forks – see the image below the teapot. The very smart “Albion” form on which Ondine sits also has similarities to his wonderful silverware coffee set “Elizabeth II” (also pictured below) – specifically the form of the handle and the spout. The “flat” lid and generous handle shape is something he used often on his silverware designs.

I love the simplicity of the Ondine design which is at the same time very sophisticated and elegant – alternating blue and green panels, outlined with a black maze like pattern, wrapped perfectly around the form on which it sits.

The V&A Museum in its online collections has some fabulous examples of Benney’s work, including a fascinating design for a silver coffee pot design very similar in shape to the teapot design pictured here. They also outline how Benney’s now iconic “tree bark” finish was developed:

“His signature textured tree-bark finish was developed by accident. While hand-raising the bowl of a cup he unintentionally used a silver hammer with a damaged head. After hitting the smooth surface of the silver several times with the hammer he created a pleasing ribbed and rippled surface that resembled the bark of a tree. As well as being aesthetically pleasing this textured surface also had a practical advantage; it prevented fingermarks and tarnishing” 

 

Ridgway Ondine Teapot - Gerald Benney 1965

Ridgway Ondine Teapot – Gerald Benney 1965 – Photo Ray Garrod

Ridgway Ondine Teapot - Gerald Benney 1965

Ridgway Ondine Teapot – Gerald Benney 1965 – Photo Ray Garrod

 

Ridgway Ondine Tea Cups

Ridgway Ondine Tea Cups photo via Greysgiftsandgarbage Etsy.

Gerald Benney Stainless Steel Forks

Gerald Benney Stainless Steel Forks photo via lemmingsalmon etsy

Gerald Benney ELIZABETH II Coffee Service. Image via Live Auctioneers.

Gerald Benney ELIZABETH II Coffee Service. Image via Live Auctioneers.

Ridgway Ondine Sauce Boat

Ridgway Ondine Sauce Boat – photo via mrmod.co.nz

 

Susie Cooper ‘Cornpoppy’

Susie Cooper (1902-1995) was one of the most prolific and talented ceramic designers of the 20th Century….. if not THE top designer of ceramics in the 20th Century. I have several entries on this website with my favourite Susie Cooper patterns.

Susie Cooper’s career spans over 7 decades from when she founded the Susie Cooper Pottery in 1929 until the late 1980s. I’ve never come across a design by her which I don’t admire. I especially like her Art Deco era pieces, but it is also her 1960s and 1970s designs which stand out from the crowd.

Her patterns are always beautifully balanced, with an exquisite attention to detail which many designers neglect. She also knew the importance of the clay body and form on which the design was put, and stated in the 1950s that “The beauty and translucency of china should speak for itself and not be overburdened by pattern” – I think that this view is demonstrated in one of her stand out 1970s designs – “Cornpoppy” (1971) from her Wedgwood period.

There is a complex depth of colour and texture in the orange and red of the poppy, and the black flowing lines contrasted against the bright white clay body remind me of the beauty of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy.

In the very thoroughly researched and written book “Susie Cooper, A Pioneer of Modern Design” by Andrew Casey & Ann Eatwell, about “Cornpoppy” they write:

“The pattern, almost oriental in the stark contrast between the scarlet poppy and touches of black against the white bone china, demonstrates …her claim that a well designed article of pottery contributes to the interior design of the home. It is impossible not to sense the joy of the artist in this floral motif with its flowing lines and vibrant colour, unrestrained by the rimless coupe shape…..of course Susie Cooper had always been famous for her depiction of flora, but this was quite a departure from the combination of gentle pastel colours and creamy earthenware body of the 1930s. 

Here are a few pieces of Cornpoppy I have had hold of recently:

 

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy – Photo Ray Garrod

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy – Photo Ray Garrod

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy – Photo Ray Garrod

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy – Photo Ray Garrod

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy

Susie Cooper Cornpoppy – Photo Ray Garrod