Vintage View: Check out the pottery that broke the mould

Vintage View: Check out the pottery that broke the mould
Carol Cutler charger for Poole, late 1960s, early 1970s. Delphis pattern.

Kya deLongchamps points the way to collecting Poole, a UK pottery that broke the mould in the 1960s and 1970s.

The 1960s and 1970s area of ceramics is on fire at the moment, as younger buyers turn away from the twee, expected, polite and antique thing to more risky, abstract moments in crafting and design. 

With our expansive open-plan homes picked out in drab neutrals and cowardly receding pattern, we need vanguard, vintage pieces that sit up and wave while marrying to searing modernist rooms. 

Poole pottery has something for everyone and two highly distinct vintage looks for the interested collector.

Innovative, distinct — Poole was founded in 1873 by Jesse Carter, as the Carter Company on a quayside in the town of Poole in Dorset. 

The area was long famed for its claggy, red clay — ideal for potting and in particular making tiles, and some of the Carter Co’s early output can still be found in the London Underground. 

By 1921, the designer and silversmith Howard Stabler and his designer wife Phoebe, had joined the firm, now led by Charles Owen, along with the visionary Stoke-on-Trent potter John Adams and his wife Truda. 

The art pottery end of the business now really took off in what is termed the Carter-Stable-Adams period of Poole, or CSA.

The name to conjure with in this first CSA period is chief designer Truda Carter (1890-1958) who went on to marry Cyril Carter. 

Truda was celebrated for her bold European led design of the 1920s and ’30s, applied by outside known painters on commission – largely female ‘paintresses’ who can be identified by their initials on the pots today. 

Margaret Holder and Ruth Pavely are among the best known decorators, but there are dozens of others who interpreted Truda’s sketches in their own, highly personalised manner.

Truda and John Adams took inspiration from their time living in Africa, and were moved by contemporary art, including the work of influential Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. 

Truda Carter pattern Poole from the early Traditional collections.
Truda Carter pattern Poole from the early Traditional collections.

Their exploded, stylized forms — animals, plants, flowers and spiky geometrics were tamed by a pale ground and matt glaze which reads as somewhat faded and old fashioned set against the eccentric ware that was to come in the Poole catalogue 20 years later. 

Still, the CSA Traditional pieces have retained the streamlined Art Deco sophistication and appeal that made them popular wedding presents right through the 1940s, bought from Heal’s department stores.

Prices for Traditional CSA Poole have fallen since the 1990s when an interest in early Poole peaked, and today you can find good entry level cylinders and vases from €50 to €100 on Etsy and EBay. 

Look for a two letter code for the pattern followed by the initials of the decorator to trace the hands that finished it. 

All Poole is well documented and with proper back-stamps, monograms and marks, easily identified in their catalogue. 

Look for patterns that cover the ware as fully as possible.

If you prefer your ceramics loud, proud, and truly psychedelic in mood, colour and finish — avant-garde Poole ware dating from the Festival of Britain forward (1953 - ) will really excite the eye, and is determinedly rising in value year on year.

The second world war reduced the staff at the Poole factory to a handful of surviving potters, and the restless mood of the times produced new aesthetic movements, rejecting the acceptable aesthetics and fashions, even those that had shaken gin-fizz into the roaring ’20s.

As the war-time restrictions on domestic production were lifted, a design unit was reassembled at Poole under industrial designer Alfred Burgess Read (1898-1973), and veteran Poole potter Guy Sydenham (1916-2005) who took the new appeal of Scandinavian design into the firm’s new Contemporary range.

Art students, young ceramicists and independent artists had always had an input at Poole and now they were encouraged to contribute individual finishes and fantastic colour to new Contemporary Poole bodies — chargers, spear shaped dishes and more. 

The new work features spray on glazes, carving, and ‘living glazes’ (still used today) that ran into each other making every dish utterly unique and strangely alive after firing.

The result was an eye watering body of work, mass produced and placed in the middle of the market where bright young things attracted to the new industrial design could afford it, at least in the ‘unlimited’ editions. 

An Aegean spear shaped tray for Poole. 1960s.
An Aegean spear shaped tray for Poole. 1960s.

The Delphis, Aegean, Ionian and Atlantis lines from this period retain strangely classic roots, referencing archaeological finds, tribal craft and the rich mineral colours of the ancient world. 

Their marmalade bright, thick sticky glaze is unmistakable once you know it.

Artists Tony Morris, a graduate of the feted Newport School, and former lecturer at the Stoke-on-Trent College of Art, Robert Jefferson, turned the design heat up even higher. 

Established at The Poole Studio in the early 1960s, they concentrated on individual works of art using experimental glazes, wax applications, mineral oxide firing and completely new potting techniques. 

Its hand-built wall plaques, plates and tiles sold for as much as 12 guineas a piece at the time. 

Morris’ work including his wonderful Sun Faced chargers, are now highly desirable on the fine art market, selling for tens of thousands.

Despite being edgy and very cool when it was first made. Poole Pottery dipped into charity shop obscurity in the 1980s, its Art Deco and flamboyant late mid-century output, only quietly collected back by visionary collectors at boot sales and bring-and-buys.

Prices for rare and celebrated pieces now see it feature at prestigious 20th century sales and as star stock with online portals reserved for Tiffany and Chippendale including 1stDibs. 

A good charger plate (16”) pre-1980 will come in the area of €350-€600.

Looking at the popular high street ceramics churned out by the container full in the Far East — Poole and their peer British and Irish studios, right up to the present, is where we should be placing more money for an heirloom return. 

Join a collector’s club online to deepen your knowledge, and pick up a copy of Leslie Hayward’s seminal book, Poole Pottery (Richard Dennis 2011) if you become totally potty, €63, Easons.

Poole’s original studio and factory closed in 2006, but a range of ware under their name is now produced in Middleton Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire and available through John Lewis, poolepottery.co.uk.

More on this topic

Fascinating lots at Country House CollectionsFascinating lots at Country House Collections

Fountains and horse-drawn carriage at Cork contents saleFountains and horse-drawn carriage at Cork contents sale

Antiques: Your guide to what's on Antiques: Your guide to what's on

A legacy fit for any residenceA legacy fit for any residence

More in this Section

The Menu: All the food news of the weekThe Menu: All the food news of the week

Restaurant Review: Mallarkey, KillarneyRestaurant Review: Mallarkey, Killarney

The Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy PowerThe Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy Power

A Question of Taste: Timmy CreedA Question of Taste: Timmy Creed


Latest Showbiz

The veteran stand-up comic was diagnosed in 2013.Billy Connolly shares update on Parkinson’s disease

The reality star talks to Lauren Taylor about long plane trips with her toddler and how travelling has changed since she became a mum.Ferne McCann: ‘Sunday was captivated by Japan – she’s my little travel buddy’

The Hollywood actress announced she was expecting in May.Ryan Reynolds reveals sex of his third child with Blake Lively

It is preparing for the arrival of Disney and Apple into the streaming space.Netflix reveals Stranger Things season three streaming numbers

More From The Irish Examiner