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Jessie Tait – Whispering Grass – Midwinter

What a charming design. This is “Whispering Grass”, by Jessie Tait for Midwinter in 1960.

It is a transfer printed design of the flowering whispering grass, hand coloured in lilac and yellow. As with all of Jessie Tait’s designs – beautifully drafted, detailed, and balanced – as well as sitting so well on the forms.

The hollow ware of all the series is in this very soft but vibrant lilac on the outside – a colour you rarely see on dinnerware. Whispering Grass seems to be quite a rare design, and hard to find now.

For the export market the lilac on the hollow ware was replaced with black instead – but I haven’t been able to locate any images of this variation.


Midwinter Whispering Grass - Jessie Tait

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Hornsea Saffron

Another of my Hornsea favourites from the 1970s is “Saffron” – which was produced from 1970, tailing off and ending by 1992.

Saffron was designed along with most of the designs from Hornsea during this period by John Clappison. It was produced in the same shapes as Heirloom and Bronte – and all of these designs were hugely successful. Again many of the canisters were printed with a label of the intended item, and all had wooden lids with a rubber seal.

The pattern and colour of Saffron work really well together…and like all John Clappison designs of this era were screen printed – which in part was because of the growing shortage of skilled pattern painters in this era.

The design has lovely circular flower motifs in a caramel-saffron colour contrasting with the burnt orange of the background. Combined these colours give an almost 3D effect. I also really like the interiors too with their luscious thick, soft cream colour.

Flatware for this series was a plain caramel colour, with concentric grooves around the rim.

Along with Heirloom and Bronte it was made in such huge quantities that it is still reasonably priced and fairly easily available, although the shapes which got more use (and hence broken) like Coffee Mugs, are always highly coveted.

I’m a big fan of the Hornsea teapots too, as they are the perfect size – not too big, not too small, and from this era by John Clappison have non-drip spouts.

You will find a variety of backstamps on Hornsea Saffron – depending on when it was produced.

Hornsea Saffron Hornsea Saffron Hornsea Saffron

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Hornsea Heirloom

Heirloom was Hornsea’s first complete range of tableware, and was designed by John Clappison in 1966 – in production from 1967-1987.

Its distinctive screen printed black pattern, along with the well designed forms, were so hugely successful that from 1968 the entire production at Hornsea was given over to it for a period.

Heirloom – as with other good designs – continues to be popular on the secondary market –  now with a whole new generation discovering it.

The straight sided cylindrical shapes were designed to be stackable and were finished with polished wooden lids and airtight rubber seals. Many of the storage jars/canisters also had the name of the intended contents (flour, sugar etc.) moulded into them.

Items such as the straight sided bowls, egg cups, coffee cups and tea cups were also stackable.

The large rectangular handles on items such as the teapot and coffee pot were beautifully and ergononmically designed – as well as having non drip spout.

The plate-ware was left undecorated except for a series of concentric grooves around the rim.

The colour variations of Heirloom were “lakeland” (a dark moss green), Midnight blue, and Autumn brown. The blue was discontinued early in the production as it was not as popular at the time – however now it is highly sought after and collectable. The Autumn brown is the one I come across most often now here in Australia.

If you want a thorough and well researched history of Hornsea Pottery – I recommend locating a copy of the book “Hornsea Pottery 1949-1989” Brian Heckford & Brian Jakes (out of print, but still around in second hand book stores) ISBN 0 9526828 0 X.

Hornsea Heirloom - Autumn, Coffee Pot

Hornsea Heirloom – Autumn, Coffee Pot

Hornsea Heirloom - Autumn, Cup/Saucer

Hornsea Heirloom – Autumn, Cup/Saucer

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Susie Cooper Keystone

One of my favourite designs by Susie Cooper from the 1960s is Keystone, released around 1969.

It is based on the classical Greek Key motif, stylised and put to perfect use on Susie’s ‘can’ forms she developed in 1958 and which she bought with her to Wedgwood, where Susie worked from 1966 to 1980.

Several colour-ways were released in the design over time due to its popularity – but I think the black design is the most impressive. What I also love about this design is how the pure matt black contrasts against the glossy white glaze.

Black was the first release in this series, followed by Red, Green then Old Gold.

 Wedgwood Susie Cooper Keystone Black Wedgwood Susie Cooper Keystone Black Wedgwood Susie Cooper Keystone Black

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Portmeirion Magic City

I think this design is just magic. It is appropriately named Magic City. The design was inspired by exotic middle eastern inspired domed buildings, and always reminds me of this time of year with a festive look about the design with its use of colour and line which hint of fireworks, Christmas lights etc, as well as the domed buildings of the Middle East.

It was designed by Susan William-Ellis at Portmeirion Pottery in 1966, and has become one of the great British classics of the era. The forms were used in several series which Susan designed around this time – and the shape was called “Serif”. Serif refers to the shape of the handle – and is a reference to how a serif is used in typography/calligraphy to add flare to the end of a corner.

The Serif series of shapes was originally used on the Cypher and Jupiter patterns with a raised relief finish, but it is Magic City which became the most commercially successful. Magic Garden is another lovely design on the Serif series of shapes.

Of interest –  if you are in or visiting London 2019 – there is an exhibition/display in the ceramics room 146 “Portmeirion – Pottery Trendsetter” until Sunday 28th July

Portmeirion Magic City Tea Cup

Portmeirion Magic City Tea Cup

Portmeirion Magic City Plate

Portmeirion Magic City Plate

Portmeirion Magic City Coffee Pot

Portmeirion Magic City Coffee Pot

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Elizabeth Lissaman “The Art of Pottery”, Objectspace, New Zealand

Recently while in New Zealand I was very fortunate to see an outstanding exhibition at Objectspace, Ponsonby, of the work of Elizabeth Lissaman: “The Art of Pottery”

I have never come across the work of this important Artist/Potter before, and it captivated me immediately. In addition to the unique beauty and skill of the work, was the variety and sheer scope of the exhibition.

Elizabeth Lissaman’s Pottery immediately reminded me of the work of other international potters and artists of the early 20th Century– like that of expat Australian Anne Dangar, the Artists of the Bloomsbury group in the U.K. – especially that of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. I could also see similarities in the use of colour and pattern by Lissaman to the work of Danish Svend Hammershøi and other Artists at the Herman Kahler pottery.

While it is unlikely that Elizabeth Lissaman would have been exposed to the works of these Artists and Potters the common influences and inspirations of the international Arts and Crafts movement, the Art Deco Movement, Modernism, and the spirit of Individualism are all apparent – but given a unique New Zealand interpretation by Lissaman.

With a career spanning nearly 70 years, Elizabeth Lissaman is one of New Zealand’s first studio potters, who remarkably for the 1930s was able to make a living out of her work.

Elizabeth Lissaman was born in 1901 and was educated in Wellington where she was first introduced to pottery making by her art teacher DK Richmond. In 1923 she spent 10 months in Sydney furthering her own study of pottery.

She spent the next 15 years back in rural Marlborough NZ, and during the Depression years sold many art deco pieces to department stores to supplement earnings from the farm she ran with her husband, Henry Hall.

In 1937 with three young children, they moved to Horowhenua where Elizabeth also began tutoring pottery. After the war, they moved to a farm at Tahuna near Morrisville in Waikato.

Lissaman along with the female potters of her generation is now being celebrated for her focus on uniquely-inspired ceramic practice.

An unsung hero of her time, Lissaman defended her right to decorate her work as she wished, rejecting calls for the new wave of New Zealand potters to develop and adhere to a distinctively typical style. In 1969, she wrote, “We are a small nation of individualists who strive, on our own, to develop arts which satisfy something within ourselves.”

Elizabeth Lissaman at Obectspace:(Left to right) Elizabeth Lissaman, Jug, with reptile – 1934 Earthenware with onglaze decoration Alistair and Clare Fleming Collection Elizabeth Lissaman, Vase, with bird – 1934 Earthenware with underglaze decoration Alistair and Clare Fleming Collection Elizabeth Lissaman, Vase, with bird – 1932 Earthenware with underglaze decoration Gabby Cox Collection

Elizabeth Lissaman at Obectspace: (Left to right)
Elizabeth Lissaman, Jug, with reptile – 1934,Earthenware with onglaze decoration, Alistair and Clare Fleming Collection
Elizabeth Lissaman, Vase, with bird – 1934, Earthenware with underglaze decoration, Alistair and Clare Fleming Collection
Elizabeth Lissaman, Vase, with bird – 1932, Earthenware with underglaze decoration, Gabby Cox Collection.
Image Ray Garrod

As a child of the suffrage movement, her ambition to forge her own path never wavered as she sought a successful future in pottery. Lissaman received no formal tertiary education, working alone in various parts of rural New Zealand. With a lack of locally available supplies, Lissaman sourced her materials from within New Zealand herself, digging and bagging the beautiful terracotta clay by hand.

More after the page break…..

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1930’s Temuka Pottery, New Zealand

This is a piece I had some time ago and It is one of the very early pieces from Temuka Pottery New Zealand which started in the 1930s in Temuka, near Christchurch. Its nice to see that the pottery is still thriving today.

The style is classic 1930’s with its beautiful glaze runs in blue and white, with a ribbed shape on which there is some applied relief decoration in a sort of “tiki”style. This style of earthenware pottery was also very popular with Australian potteries, and generally around the world during this period. Even Michael Andersen Pottery in Denmark had a similar series of earthenware pieces.

I believe this design was by the manager of Temuka Pottery when it started up – Arthur Toplis...(although it could also be a piece from Thomas Lovatt) Arthur was a talented potter by trade, and amongst other items, he introduced the production of small items such as tobacco jars for Christmas presents for New Zealand Insulators’ customers (Temuka’s Pottery parent company at the time). Toplis died in 1939, and potter Thomas Norman Lovatt took over as manager in 1941, but many of the designs by Topliss continued for several years afterwards.

Read more about the history of this pottery on their website. 

The Auckland Museum also has an interesting collection of early Temuka pieces on their website. The 2 images of the jugs below are from their collection. Have a look at the Temuka collection held by the museum HERE


Temuka Jar, 1930s, New Zealand

Temuka Jar, 1930s, New Zealand

Temuka Jar, 1930s, New Zealand

Temuka Jar, 1930s, New Zealand

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Ilja Chapoff – Further Information

Thank you to Emma for sending a photo of piece by Ilja Chapoff (previous posts). This piece has a similar style of pattern and brush technique to the first piece by this Artist which I came across – and appears to have been from the same exhibition/gallery going by the labelling on the base.

As a fascinating side note I have come across an photo of a large mural painted by Ilja before he came to Australia as a WW2 refugee from Czechoslovakia.

I cant post the image here as it is a “stock image” – but HERE is the link to it.

The mural is in the Dormition Church at the Olsany Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic, and the caption says this is one of several murals painted 1941-1945 by a group of Russian Icon Painters after a design by Ivan Bilibin. I knew that Ilja worked as an Artist in Prague before migrating to Australia, but until now didn’t know in what capacity or field…so it is fascinating to be building up a background story every so slowly of this talented artist and craftsman.

(There is also a fascinating brief history of the Olsany Cemetery on Wikipedia here )

Ilja Chapoff

Ilja Chapoff

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