Saturday, May 05, 2007

Open Day at The Quay

On the Sunday after the Cottees auction, the new owners of Poole Pottery held an open day at the Quay shop. This was organised for them by Roger Hartley of animallblues, and a very good job he did too in a short space of time.

If you have not heard the latest, the Poole Pottery brand has been bought by the Lifestyle Group and the quay shop re-opened, but the factory remains closed. At the moment the shop is mainly selling old stock, although I believe some items are being made at Lifestyle’s other factory in Staffordshire. A small studio section has also been established in the quay shop where Alan White is working.

John Robinson of Lifestyle gave a speech affirming their commitment to the brand, but also confirming that they will not be re-opening the factory. It is simply too expensive to run. However, they are looking for new premises in the quay area as there is only a short lease on the current shop. The pottery is a big tourist draw in Poole and the local council were said to be co-operating in the search. I had wondered whether the old Purbeck Pottery building might be the target but others had heard it was too small and too expensive. John commented that the Lifestyle Group are not asset strippers, and in any case there are hardly any assets to strip.

Alan White gave some throwing demonstrations, making it look deceptively easy to create perfectly shaped and sized bowls, without any apparent reference to a measure. The first limited edition from the new studio was launched at the open day and was on public display for the first time. It will be based on the Tony Morris sunface design, thrown and carved by Alan and decorated by Nicki Massarella. There will be two sizes, 30cm and 41cm, limited to 50 of each.

Roger had arranged for several ex-Poole paintresses to attend, including Carol Cutler, Janet Laird, Lynn Gregory and Debbie Farrance. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask Carol whether there was any story behind the early shape 81 dish of hers that I have, which is signed with the 1969 Y dot mark. It appears to have CND style roundels as part of the design and I had fondly imagined Carol, fresh out of art school, bringing protest into pottery. Sadly, Carol was unable to recall any particular interest in CND, or its logo, so we just had to put it down to a general influence of the period. Still, Carol was charming to talk to and did reveal that when she first started marks were simply allocated to paintresses, which is how she came to use the Y dot mark and others used their various symbols.

Amidst the Poole Pottery Roger had arranged a fine display of Poole Zone artists work, including Janet Laird, Carol Cutler, Anita Harris and Mark Baker. Mark, who runs the Tradpots pottery in Poole, is a really nice guy and was also at the open day. He produces some excellent pieces that clearly have a Poole heritage whilst still carrying a unique style of their own. I am particularly fond of the carved vases and have recently started to offer some of Mark’s items for sale through The Poole Room.

Another nice guy is Eddie Goodall, who has been throwing pots for many years and regularly gave demonstrations at Poole Pottery open days. Eddie actually taught both Alan and Mark to throw. Unfortunately, Eddie told us that he is still redundant following the factory closure. He spotted a massive Forest Flame vase he had made in the studio and agreed to pose with it (revealing it was made in four separate pieces). This vase is on the back of the 2006 catalogue, standing on the beach at Sandbanks.

All in all the open day set the tone for a positive future, which was enhanced by the involvement of the Poole Zone artists. Our best wishes to all involved. All open day pictures in this post were taken by fellow AAPP group member Paul Prince, and are used with his kind permission.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sun Shines at Cottees Shock!

Last Saturday saw the spring Poole Pottery auction at Cottees come round again. Unusually, the weather was glorious and, rather than freezing in the “shed” whilst trying to get near the solitary gas heater, everyone was roasted and the snack bar ran out of bottled water!

The event was a notable success this year, with more people attending than I have ever seen before. This can be attributed, I think, to the publicity surrounding the factory closure and also the activities of the All About Poole Pottery group. This group, founded by Dave Goddard, has recently published a Collector’s Journal, and is filling the space vacated by the official collectors club. Quite a few members attended the auction, some for the first time, and an enjoyable pre-auction dinner was held the night before at The Duke of Wellington in Wareham.

The catalogue estimates may have helped the turn-out as well, being set at a rather tempting level on the whole. Cottees also mailed a copy of the catalogue to everybody who had bought at the last auction, thus keeping interest up.

Unfortunately the number of people attending, along with an apparently healthy set of commission and telephone bids, meant that there were few bargains to be had. I was pleased to pick up a mixed bag of collectors club magazines and an old Christies catalogue for £10 hammer price on a maiden bid, but otherwise pickings were slim.

A lot I was particularly interested in was a Freya plate, designed by Ann Read in 1958, and featuring a hand-painted picture of Poole harbour with the bow of the vessel Freya in the foreground. This was estimated at £40-£60, although I had expected it to sell for around £120. In fact after fierce bidding it went for an astonishing £230 hammer!

In the end I had to make do with a Beardsley vase, replacing one I had sold a few months ago, a 1950’s contemporary cucumber dish and an early 8” Delphis “blue mark” studio plate. I paid slightly over what I had intended for all of them, so let’s hope the buoyant market continues!

Cottees must have been pleased with the auction results, there were very few unsold lots, the majority seemed to reach estimate and a good proportion far exceeded the top estimate. Despite the lack of bargain buys it was an enjoyable event and, as always, the opportunity to have a good look at rare items close up is a treat. There was a range of Tony Morris chargers, two Guy Sydenham Atlantis helmet lamps, a Harold Stabler galleon “door-stop” and some Phoebe Stabler figures that fetched good money. It was also a pleasure to meet fellow members of the AAPP group face-to-face. Roll on October.