I discovered this striking large piece by South Australian Potter Rhonda Boehm recently. It is signed Rhonda Longbottom (her married name, used early in career) indicating it was made in the early to mid 1970s when she had just begun her career as a potter in the Barossa Valley.
It is a substantial piece around 25cm tall x 15cm diameter. Inside it is glazed with a glossy black glaze, and the outside has been iron oxide decorated to accentuate the impressed design. The iron oxide would have been applied to the bisque fire pot, then wiped back, leaving it in the deeper parts creating this effect which was a prevalent look of Australian pottery in the 1970s into the 1980s. The large ridges down the outside appear to have been impressed with a thumb mark while the clay was still wet.
Rhonda Boehm, 1970s
Rhonda Boehm, 1970s
Rhonda Boehm, 1970s
Rhonda Boehm, 1970s – Signed Rhonda Longbottom
Wax resist on pottery is a technique whereby wax is used to prevent glazes or slips from adhering onto the clay body or previous coating of glaze when a second or third layer is applied. The wax “resists” the second glaze from adhering, allowing the painted design to show. Japanese potters call the technique “Ronuki”
The technique often results in glaze beading of the overlayed colour, which adds to the decorative effect of the technique. Beautiful effects are possible with the combining of glazes. Especially where a dark glaze is the first glaze applied, then painting a wax design and follow by applying a lighter coloured glaze.
Some of my favourite wax resist pieces were made by Australian Studio Potter Phyl Dunn (1915-1999).
Her glazes from this period have the most beautiful silky smooth texture, and display a fresh experimental approach to the use of colour and pattern. They are usually very simple pieces where it can be seen she was experimenting with Calligraphy as a design.
After formal training in London in 1954-1955, Phyl returned to Australia in 1956, marrying Studio Potter Reg Preston in 1958. At this time also “Potters Cottage” was established. Potters Cottage was a co-operative founded in Warrandyte in 1958 for the purpose making and selling handmade Australian pottery.
The five founding members from 1958 were Reg Preston, Phyl Dunn, Artec Halpern, Gus McLaren and Charles Wilton; Their shared idealistic belief that modern, handmade pottery could enhance the quality of contemporary life was central to their philosophy.
In the 2 earthenware pieces by Phyl Dunn below from the same period, (early 1960’s) the use of colour is beautifully restrained. Phyl was also a very competent colourist, and combining this skill with wax resist, seems to add a freshness which wasnt present in much of the “heavy” studio pottery of this period.
In 1967 she moved from earthenware pottery to stoneware, and in 1982 Phyl and Reg set up a studio in Woolamai in Victoria, where she worked until 1987. I think these early wax resist pieces by Phyl are amongst her best work however.
Phyl Dunn, Wax Resist Design Jug
Rhonda Boehm, Barossa Valley, South Australia
From time to time I come across lovely stoneware fired pieces by local potter Rhonda Boehm.
Rhonda Boehm (b ? – d 2005) worked from a studio in the Barossa Valley, South Australia – and was most active during the 1980s.
Her work has a distinctive and honest quality to it – and is most often in muted mushroom pinks and bluish greys. Rhonda specialised in coloured clay slips and dry glazes over a carved whitish coloured clay body. Pieces were glazed on the inside with a clear glaze most often.
Some works have a botanical design, and others have precise and geometric patterns carved into the stoneware fired clay. There is something reminiscent of the hues of the Australian sunset and landscape in Rhonda’s use of colour and design.
The images below are pieces by Rhonda which have passed through my hands over the years.
The information quoted below is from the ever growing and hugely informative Australian Pottery >1960s Website and associated pages by Judith Pearce.
Rhonda Boehm ( -2005) owned a hairdressing salon in Nuriootpa, SA, before taking up pottery in the early 1970s under her married name, Rhonda Longbottom. She completed a ceramics course…. and set up a studio in the caretakers’ cottage of an old stone winery she renovated with her husband in Tanunda, SA. She also ran a successful gallery in the main building and was an active member of the Potters’ Guild of SA. In the mid-1980s, she divorced and began practicing under her maiden name. Work produced before her divorce is incised ‘Rhonda Longbottom’ or impressed ‘RL’ with the R inside the angle of the L. Work made after is impressed ‘RB’ with the R reversed. Some pieces may also have an impressed kangaroo. Others may be incised ‘Boehm’.