Latvian Australian Folk Pottery
I have come across these folk style items of pottery here in Adelaide for decades.
Something about them captivates my interest. They appear to be made mid 20th Century, and have similar forms and patterns. Their maker continues to be a mystery however.
They all appear to be by the same potter and I am pretty confident that the potter was Latvian or Baltic going by the designs and motifs, and from seeing other almost identical Latvian pieces on sites such as “The Baltic Shop”.
All pieces bear the same cypher/signature which you can see in the last image. They are all stoneware fired pieces, with glazes often used by Australian potters in the 1950s-1970s.
General consensus now by collectors and from feedback over the years, is that they were made here in Australia/Adelaide by a Latvian potter, post WW2 – partly because it seems odd to find a whole group of pottery by the same potter imported all the way from Latvia, and partly due to the frequency with which the pieces appear in auctions and estate sales.
There were so many Latvian and East European Artists & Potters who came to live in Australia after WW2, some of who became well known and documented, but many others yet still to be “discovered”. The output of this potter seems to have been quite large, so hopefully one day his or her identity comes to light.
If the potter was Latvian they were most probably from the Latgale region of eastern Latvia where there is a large studio pottery industry. There are many different styles of pottery within the region – including lustre ware, blackened pottery, unglazed pottery, and pieces like the ones I have here. The YouTube below of the potters from the Latgale region is well worth a watch (apart from the voice over!).
Here are some of the comments I have had regarding this pottery when this article was posted on the original incarnation of this blog:
“It is likely to be UL as W is not used in Latvian words. Though it could be a W name borrowed from another ethnicity/language, it’s pretty unlikely. There are not that many Latvian names which start with U either! Uldis and Ugis are two male names and Una is a female name”
“There are one big family of Latgale potters in Latvia Ushpelis (original Ušpelis) possible transcription Uspelis or Uspels”
“My parents had a Latvian gift shop in Melbourne on 5th floor of 306 Lt. Collins Street between 1954 – ca. 1984. We sold Latvian pottery. Most by a Mrs (Natalie?) Neiburgs The first photo on this page is like a small vase I have”