Derek Smith (1931-2019 )
Derek Smith was a already an accomplished ceramic designer and art teacher in the U.K. when he moved to Australia in 1956.
He set up a studio and kilns while he was teaching at Bowral High School in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, near Sturt Pottery where Smith developed working relationships with the potters there at the time.
Smith was then invited to teach at the Tasmanian School of Art, and his exhibition at Domain House in Hobart in 1963 was the first exhibition of stoneware pottery in Tasmania.
Smith spent 2 years setting up the ceramics course the the Tasmanian School of Art 1962-64 before continuing to teach until 1973, while developing a studio practice in Beecroft NSW.
In 1973 he was invited to establish and manage a pottery studio within the Doulton Australia factory. There he managed a studio with 6 staff. Derek designed the forms. Some were hand thrown and some were made using moulds and a jolley machine to increase output and efficiency. During this time Smith also continued to produce his own studio work.
Derek Smith’s skill as a designer and ceramicist were well suited to commercial production however the relationship with Doulton however was relatively short lived – ending in 1976-7 when Doulton Australia was sold, and Smith set up Blackfriars Pottery in Sydney which became a one of the largest and most successful potteries in Australia at that time.
In the 1980s he returned to Tasmania and focused on studio and exhibition work at his new studio Mangalore.
I view Derek Smith’s work up there with the best of Australian ceramic design from this era. To me his work exemplifies the best of 1970s design – a blend of quality commercial and studio pottery. His forms are so skilfully designed and made, and his use of glaze, surface and texture add to the beauty of these forms.
Update 2019 – The Journal of Australian Ceramics in their July 2019 edition have published an in memoriam article on Derek Smith, written by Heather Creet. I was happy to provide some of the photographs I’ve featured here for the article.
Below is a piece of Smith’s work with the DS cypher which he used 1969-1973. Sometimes you can find this popular form with the Doulton stamp too – meaning it was produced a little later when Derek was with Doulton.
There is also a FLICKR page which has examples of Derek Smith’s backstamps or cyphers HERE if you are looking to date or identify a piece of work by Derek Smith.