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Denby “Trees”, Diana Woodcock-Beckering

Denby Trees c1970.

It would be hard to find a design that screams the 1970s more than this bold and colourful design. It has influences of Pop-Art, Psychedelic Art and the bold and colourful Graphic Design of this era. The design consists of black silhouetted trees set against an op-art style dot pattern sky in white on purple with rolling hills in green, orange and ochres. These colours (and the style of graphic) defined the look of so much design in the 1970s – but you dont often see the colour combination on dinnerware. 

The shapes the design is placed on you may recognise immediately as the forms Gill Pemberton designed for Denby “Chevron” in the 1960s. The “Trees” design was placed on all of the forms of Chevron including the steel handled teapot, coffee pots, lidded forms, bowls, plates and dishes. 

The design of Trees is by Diana Woodcock-Beckering who was trained at the Croydon College of Art and Design in 1962, which led to a Diploma at Loughborough College, before post graduate MA qualifications at the Royal College of Art, London starting in 1966.

Diana worked as a freelancer at Denby between 1969-1971, and after her time at Denby, Diana (now Diana Worthy) went on to set up Crich Pottery in Derbyshire in 1972 with her husband. 

There is so much to Diana than her “Trees” design for Denby though, in both her training & education and later work. 

I found a very thorough and well written 2001 article on the studio work of Diana HERE , which also has a good variety of images clearly showing the style Diana developed. Diana’s achievements during her study and post graduate study were quite stellar – from the article linked is this quote: 

“Diana could usually be found in college (Royal College of Art) at all hours, seven days a week. There she met Hans Coper, David Queensberry and Eduardo Paulozzi. Diana won the RCA prize for drawing and also the Frank Denning Memorial Award to study designs in Scandinavia. Her final degree show M (Design) RCA resulted in offers of freelance pottery designing for Kilkenny Design workshops and for Denby Pottery in Derbyshire. She also took a full time lecturing post at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in the Faculty of three-dimensional design” 

Denby Trees

Denby Trees – Photo Ray Garrod

Denby Trees

Denby Trees – Photo Ray Garrod

Denby Trees

Denby Trees – Photo Ray Garrod

 

Denby Trees

Denby Trees – Pinterest

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Who Made You Mystery Bearded Man ?

There are some pieces of pottery which talk to you, and this is one of them 🙂 …I have had this piece for years now and have not been able to identify its origin. Originally purchased at an auction simply because it really stood out to me.

From the distance, when I first saw this piece I thought it was a piece of 1970s Australian Studio Pottery…in the style of Jo Caddy, but the more I study it, the more I am inclined to think it is from Europe…and possibly very old.

I have done a bit of research on “bearded man jugs” (from the 17th century, and Toby jugs but not come up with anything like it.

It’s obviously hand made, wheel thrown with an applied and engraved decoration and then fired in a wood kiln firing – there are areas of Ash and possibly even small areas of salt glaze.

There is just something about the condition of the clay and the colour of the oxides used that says very old. Also I cant think of a reason an Australian potter would put a Dutch windmill as a motif on a jug – unless they were emulating the style of jug from the 17th 18th Century.

It is at the same time quite crudely made, but also displays a very high level of skill and finesse in the decoration, formation of the handle and other small details. The walls are an even thickness. It is not too heavy, not too light. ….and just look at the beautiful little bird in flight, the leaves, and all the small details.

Quite an enigma, my goatee’d man.

I posted this entry on the first incarnation of this website years ago, and the best ideas then were as follows:

  • From a Dutch reader –  “not a Dutch Windmill…but a Spanish Windmill….and looking very much like Don Quixote” 
  • From another reader –  a “Hungarian Miska Mug, depicting a Hussar” – it does bear resemblance to these jugs, although all the ones I can find are glazed faience earthenware 
  • And another – possibly Japanese? – There is a windmill style similar to this in Japan. 

I would love to hear from readers in the comments section as to what your thoughts are on this piece, and hopefully one day the origin will be revealed. 

Click on any image below to bring up gallery style larger scrolling images: 

 

Ondine Design – Gerald Benney for Ridgway Potteries 1965

Gerald Benney (1930-2008) is well known as a very important 20th Century Silversmith in both the specialist and mass markets where his attractive “bark finish” became a signature style. You can read more about his work in his Obituary in the Guardian HERE. 

His work in Ceramics is less known and documented – and the only confirmed record of ceramics he designed I can find is for Ridgway Potteries in 1965 when he designed the Ridgway “Ondine” series on a form which he also designed, called “Albion”.

There are some other designs which appear to be from his hand, but I am yet to confirm he is the designer.

“Ondine” hits the perfect balance between form and decoration on his very elegant modernist forms – which have a strong Scandinavian influence. Many of Benney’s designs have that Scandinavian look about them – possibly an influence from his early in career work with Norwegian designer Berger Bergersen, and the influence of Georg Jensen designs.

The pattern on his Ondine design makes me think immediately of the tines of his designs for forks – see the image below the teapot. The very smart “Albion” form on which Ondine sits also has similarities to his wonderful silverware coffee set “Elizabeth II” (also pictured below) – specifically the form of the handle and the spout. The “flat” lid and generous handle shape is something he used often on his silverware designs.

I love the simplicity of the Ondine design which is at the same time very sophisticated and elegant – alternating blue and green panels, outlined with a black maze like pattern, wrapped perfectly around the form on which it sits.

The V&A Museum in its online collections has some fabulous examples of Benney’s work, including a fascinating design for a silver coffee pot design very similar in shape to the teapot design pictured here. They also outline how Benney’s now iconic “tree bark” finish was developed:

“His signature textured tree-bark finish was developed by accident. While hand-raising the bowl of a cup he unintentionally used a silver hammer with a damaged head. After hitting the smooth surface of the silver several times with the hammer he created a pleasing ribbed and rippled surface that resembled the bark of a tree. As well as being aesthetically pleasing this textured surface also had a practical advantage; it prevented fingermarks and tarnishing” 

 

Ridgway Ondine Teapot - Gerald Benney 1965

Ridgway Ondine Teapot – Gerald Benney 1965 – Photo Ray Garrod

Ridgway Ondine Teapot - Gerald Benney 1965

Ridgway Ondine Teapot – Gerald Benney 1965 – Photo Ray Garrod

 

Ridgway Ondine Tea Cups

Ridgway Ondine Tea Cups photo via Greysgiftsandgarbage Etsy.

Gerald Benney Stainless Steel Forks

Gerald Benney Stainless Steel Forks photo via lemmingsalmon etsy

Gerald Benney ELIZABETH II Coffee Service. Image via Live Auctioneers.

Gerald Benney ELIZABETH II Coffee Service. Image via Live Auctioneers.

Ridgway Ondine Sauce Boat

Ridgway Ondine Sauce Boat – photo via mrmod.co.nz