A recent find – a lovely, large stoneware blossom vase by Barossa Valley potter Rhonda Boehm, dated 1991.
This piece is typical of the style Rhonda became well known for – a carved sgraffito design of leaves and floral elements and a beautifully balanced thrown form.
The clay used was a whitish stoneware, to which Rhonda applied first a mushroom pink slip or oxide wash, followed by a blue grey slip.
The design was then carved trhough the blue grey slip to reveal the mushroom pink beneath.
I was so pleased to hear from readers Alan & Val who were able to provide some more snippets of information about, and some images of pieces they have by Ilja Chapoff.
Ilja was a WWII refugee to Australia, and worked as a potter painter and sculptor in until the 1980s mainly in New South Wales (see my previous post here)
Alan and Val met Ilja when they ran a small art gallery where they sold some of his work. The gallery was next to their printing business in Narwee 1974/1975.
During this period Ilja was living in the Narwee/Riverwood area. They recall him being a quiet and gentle man, who before he migrated to Australia had taught and practised as an artist in Europe (possibly Prague) for many years, but had to flee with nothing when he came to Australia.
They purchased some of his work at that time, and kindly sent me some photographs of it.
You will also see below another example of Ilja’s work sent to me by Sandra Read more
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’.
Maigonis (Mike) Daga (1923-2001) was born in Latvia, and immigrated to Australia in 1948 as a refugee, where he attended the Adelaide School of Art studying sculpture.
From 1954-1964 he ran a successful commercial pottery studio in Adelaide, after which he re-located to Minneapolis in the U.S. opening a studio there around 1970. His sons continued to run the studio after his death until very recently. (The last record I can find of it operating is in 2008)
His earlier Australian work consisted of modernist, slip cast forms which this ewer style vase typifies, but he is more widely known in the U.S. for his sculptural animal forms on granite plinths. Some of these figurines have a modernist look to them, others a more traditional look.
His work is usually signed “Daga” to the base most often.
His Australian pieces are also very similar stylistically to those of Gunda Pottery made around the same time in Melbourne by fellow Latvian, Gundars Lusis…although I find the pieces from Gunda are a bit more streamlined and refined in their forms and finishes.
It was in the U.S. where Daga really refined his style.
The above was first published on my previous website retropottery.net on May 15, 2014 and has been coped without permission onto at least 1 other website I have found.
Tuominen Pottery, Adelaide Australia.
Lauri Tuominen (b1949 -) worked here in South Australia as a potter for about 20 years during the late 1970s into the 1990’s. I remember his gallery outlet as being very successful commercially and accessible to people who knew nothing about pottery…except for what they liked.
Lauri Tuominen Studio Pottery
Practically everyone I know locally has a piece of Tuominen pottery from this period. What wasn’t purchased personally was often given as a gift, wedding present or housewarming gift etc.
Occasionally I have see Tuominen pottery for sale now mistakenly attributed as “Arabia Finland” because of the Finnish designer at Arabia, Kati Tuominen.
Lauri was Finnish born and trained as, then worked as an art teacher here for 4 years before moving full time into being a full time potter. He did some further design study in Scandinavia in his early years as a potter. In his studio he employed 1 apprentice and 1 assistant.
His large variety of domestic stoneware pottery is characterised by dark subdued glazes in earthen colours, as is much of his one-off studio ware. There were other colours produced but these darker tones were the most popular and are the ones most often found these days at auctions, second hand stores, markets etc.
Lauri Tuominen Studio Pottery Large Teapot
Lauri Tuominen Studio Pottery Blossom Vase
Lauri Tuominen Studio Pottery – Small Jug