Friday, August 10, 2018

Frank Carpay did not make the cruet set!

Frank Carpay's Crown Lynn Handwerk pieces are valuable and higly collectable. 


Pic courtesy Heather Thorburn

Below is one individual piece. It looks too rough to be made by Crown Lynn. 

 Here is the base - unmarked. 

There is a long-standing myth that this condiment set was designed by Frank Carpay during the time he worked at Crown Lynn. The sets typically sell on TradeMe for over $100. If they were genuine Carpay, avid collectors would push up the bidding well above that figure. 

But unfortunately buyers still pay far more than a mid-century condiment set is worth, in the belief that they are getting a collectable piece of Crown Lynn.  Many experts have assessed this set and we are confident it is not Crown Lynn and not Carpay. Diligent searches of available shape catalogues have found nothing that suggests that this set is Crown Lynn. 

Sadly the myth is perpetuated – sellers ‘believe’ it is Carpay or ‘have been told’ it is Carpay.

Trust me, it is not.  

In contrast, here are some things that Frank Carpay did decorate.  They are all clearly marked with variations on his 'Handwerk’ signature and decorated with his distinctive loose brush-strokes.  This magnificent platter features in my  Crown Lynn book. It was bought by Sir Tom Clark at an auction in 2004, and  he was prepared to pay whatever it took to own it. 

I was shown this vase by a long-standing Crown Lynn staff member who treasured it.

This is part of a dessert set - one large serving bowl and six pudding dishes. 

Almost without exception, Frank Carpay's work is marked with his distinctive Handwerk motif. This bowl also carries the Crown Lynn 'star and tiki' mark which Gail Henry told us is from the late 1940s-early 1950s. 

Frank (Francis Hubertis) Carpay emigrated to New Zealand from Holland in February 1953, bringing with him the radical new design ideas of European modernists including Picasso. He was snapped up by Crown Lynn director Tom Clark, who hoped to move away from the traditional ‘rosebud’ china which was then mainstream.

Working with Crown Lynn designer David Jenkin, Carpay began to develop his innovative Handwerk series.

This is a publicity shot from the Auckland Star newspaper.  Carpay on the left, David Jenkin on the right. Just look at that wonderful array of work behind them. 
Frank Carpay was possibly able to throw pots, but - to my knowledge - at Crown Lynn he was a decorator only.  At first he painted standard Crown Lynn shapes, then he began designing new shapes for jugs, oil bottles and platters.  

This is what Tom Clark told me:  ‘Carpay sketched the shapes and then we made them. Some were hand-potted, Ernie Shufflebottom (Shufflebotham) made them. Others were modelled and moulded.’ 

There was a great deal of publicity at the time. When Carpay demonstrated his technique in public, he was often surrounded by an eager audience. His work was greeted with acclaim by critics and art aficionados.  

However Carpay’s Handwerk series did not sell well.   Most New Zealanders still preferred conservative designs., and Carpay’s unsold work piled up.  In 1956 he was asked to leave Crown Lynn. 

When I was interviewing Sir Tom Clark in 2004, he told me this was one of his biggest regrets.   

 ‘Finally we had too much stuff and I had to say Frank, I’m sorry Frank it’s not selling sufficient. It is costing too much to keep you. Which broke my heart.  He deserved a better chance than we were able to give him. He was way ahead of his time. Now we all think it is beautiful, wonderful but at the time it was way ahead of their (public) taste. He was a very smart guy, he had rubbed shoulders with Picasso, philosophised with him. ‘

After he lost his job at Crown Lynn, Carpay went on to develop a successful business designing and screen printing fabric for beach wear. 

Here is my one and only Frank Carpay piece.  It is the standard shape 735, and was originally one of a set of small serving dishes mounted on a tabletop 'ferris wheel' arrangement.

Lastly thanks to my fellow collectors and researchers who encouraged me to make a formal statement about the much-disputed cruet set. I would be so delighted if there is  no reference to Carpay or Crown Lynn when the next one goes on sale. 


Douglas Lloyd Jenkins
Frank Carpay

Louis Le Vailant
Considering Frank Carpay
Art New Zealand NUMBER 109 / SUMMER 2003-04

Interviews with Sir Tom Clark and others
Valerie Monk


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Forest Ware 1982-1993

Seven years ago, George and I worked in an apple packhouse with Tom and Colleen Walker. It was full-on, with little time for small talk.  In May this year (2018) we stayed a night with them on our way round the South Island and Tom mentioned in passing that he and his late wife Beth had made and sold ceramics. 
Turns out, Tom and Beth were the makers of Forest Ware, who we had been trying to track down for about five years. And he was right under my nose all along! 
I recorded a couple of interviews with Tom and he generously allowed me to photopgraph his photographic catalogues - which gives us a record of just about everything that Forest Ware made. The  photos below are only a small selection. 

Below are Forest Ware's tiny owls which Tom has kept for 25 years. Moulded by Tom and hand decorated by Beth. The largest is about 4 cm tall. 

This is Tom's story. 
In the early 1980s Tom and Beth Walker were living in their 12-metre house bus in Hastings. Tom was working full-time, so Beth took up hobby ceramics. She discovered a real talent for decorating and soon she was teaching two nights a week.  One of Beth's vases won top prize at a huge ceramics show in Pennsylvania, which gave her the confidence to start decorating pieces at home. Tom began making their own bisque blanks rather than buying them and soon they realised they were making a saleable commodity. 
They added a small electric kiln to their new house bus and moved to Hamilton. Hazelwood Ceramics Studio at Te Rapa invited them to park in their yard and plug into their power.  Tom built a caravan that served as a workshop and could be towed behind the bus.  The owner of Hazelwood Ceramics showed Tom how to copy shapes, and he began making moulds and pouring and fettling. A part-time bus driving job gave them a steady income.
Some of their shapes were blanks from Ceramic Studios but most were copies, with minor changes and different decoration to avoid copyright issues.  Tom would buy a shape he liked and make a mould from it. He only ran into trouble once. When he began making figurines based on Murray Ball’s popular Footrot Flats cartoons, friends warned him that Ball would prosecute so he stopped making them.
In those early days they made mainly souvenir ware for tourist shops in Rotorua, Taupo and Waitomo.  Small native bird figurines and plates which Beth hand-painted with bird images were big sellers, and cheery yellow glow-worms were popular at Waitomo Caves. 

Tom told me that withouth Beth's artistic skills they would not have been able to make Forest Ware.  Sadly, just as the business was really taking off, Beth was hit by a car when she was crossing the road and spent months in hospital and months more recovering. As her strength returned they bought a property at Waihi where they lived in the bus and used a small building and the caravan as workshop space.
After the move to Waihi business boomed. By now they were making a wide range of ornaments as well as souvenir ware. Big sellers included frogs in different poses, owls, dolphins, a pair of American Indian figurines, Ewoks (from the Star Wars movies) and Garfield figurines.  Cookie jars sold for $32-$35.  Kittens and puppies were also popular.  

In the souvenir range they sold thousands of little dishes hand-painted with kowhai and other flowers.  They experimented with dinnerware but ornaments were easier to make and sold better. Decoration techniques included hand painting, ceramic transfers, and spray painting.  Almost without exception a clear glaze was applied over the top.  

 Below is a little souvenir vase which Tom still owns.  It is signed LA Walker. Beth's full name was Lisbeth Ann.
Most of their product was sold at shows – the huge Auckland Easter Show, and others in Wellington, New Plymouth, Whangarei, Hamilton and Hastings.  There were also smaller A&P shows.
For three weeks in the summer Tom and Beth parked up in the holiday township of Whangamata and sold from their bus. This would generate about $10,000, and for extra income they sometimes charged 50c each for people to look inside their bus, still a novelty in the 1980s.

To prepare for shows they packed all day, filling their trailer with three tonnes of product. Then they would drive their 12-metre bus and trailer overnight to the venue, stopping for a brief sleep along the way.  The next day was spent setting up, then they sold for the duration of the show, anything from two to 10 days. Then they would pack up and drive home through the night.
Next day they would start preparing for the next show in three weeks’ time. They worked long hours, often seven days a week. Tom would start at 7 am and often he was in the workshop until 9.30 at night waiting for a firing to finish so he could turn off the kiln.
The business did not make a fortune but it made a living for Tom and Beth and they felt good about what they created.   As can be seen from the display pics above, they made an amazingly large range. Here are their little animal egg cups - which will be sure to add to the never-ending debate of who made what! 

 The wine cask below was modelled from scratch by Tom and hand decorated by Beth. Tom used two discs from a disc plough to form the original shape. A set like this was given as a prize in the TV show Sale of the Century.

Unfortunately by 1992-1993 Forest Ware was no longer profitable and Tom and Beth closed it down. Cheap imported ware, which looked fresh and new, edged them out of the market. About 300 Forest Ware moulds were sold to other studios and the rest were given away or broken up and sent to the local dump.
In partnership with their son they soon began a new and very successful business as balloon clowns.

FOREST WARE MARKS – note that not all Forest Ware was marked 

Hand Painted by LA (Beth) Walker. 

 The usual stamped Forest Ware mark.
 The mark below is on the base of a souvenir bird plate.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A serious mistake!

I have to confess to a mistake in my Crown Lynn Collectors Handbook. On page 136 there is a photo of a Pania of the Reef lamp base which is not Crown Lynn.


EDITS -  one of my readers - Karen  has shed some light on the likely origins of the Pania I discuss below.  In the catalogue of the Jim Durmmond auction of 22 April 2009, the very last listings are as follows.  (The numbers on the left are the lot numbers for the auction.) 

1891 ‘Marble Art’ resin Pania of the reef lamp base $250 - $300
1892 ‘Marble Art’ cast black resin warrior lamp base $200 - $250
1893 ‘Marble Art’ cast ochre coloured ancestral figure lamp base $300 - $500
1894 ‘Marble Art’ cast black coloured poutokomanawa lamp base $300 - $500

Karen also provided us with a link to more information about the likely manufacturers, a company called Marble Art.

And this is the link to the Jim Drummond catalogue, which Art + Object auction house has generously retained on line for us.,43,25,Jim_Drummond_Collection.pdf ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now  back to my original post - Pania on pg 136 of my Crown Lynn Collectors Handbook is not Crown Lynn! 

 It looks like it could be Crown Lynn, it feels like Crown Lynn, but there is absolutely nothing in the records that establishes that it is Crown Lynn.  Significantly, my researcher friend Ev Williams who has spent hours and hours sifting through the records which are now available at Te Toi Uku Crown Lynn museum, has found no reference to it.

The lovely little figurine with a New Zealand theme is almost certainly made by someone in NZ, but I have no idea who.  

Recently I was sent a pic which shows one of these lamp bases with a little sticker "NZ REG. DESIGN 11549" stuck onto the green velvet base. Maybe a NZ design researcher will be able to track down a maker with that information. 

It may not even be ceramic, though as yet we have been unable to find out what it actually is made of.  The owner of the one I photographed lives some distance away and I have yet to check it personally.

So why on earth did I put it in the book?  Believe me, I often ask myself that question.

Unfortunately I was shown it by someone who believed it was Crown Lynn, and I was so thrilled that I made a foolish assumption. The Three Faces of Eve lamp would have been a much more sensible example.

I must apologise to the Crown Lynn collectors who are seeking this piece for themselves - if you find one, by all means treasure it as a special piece of Kiwiana, but it is not Crown Lynn. And there are enough errors on Trademe without me adding to them! 

That lamp is hopefully my most substantial error, but there are others. 

Importantly, Crown Lynn designer Mark Cleverley told me of an error in my first book Crown Lynn a New Zealand Icon.  On page 108,  the Expo 70 Legend of Maui platter and the chopsticks fish hook were designed by Mark Cleverley not (as I was initially told) by David Jenkin. 

Like all researcher/writers, I do my best to thoroughly check and cross-check, but even so the occasional mistake slips through. 

It's ok if the error is online, I just do a quick edit - hopefully before it is re-posted, but an incorrect statement in a book is much more serious because it is there forever.  

Now - a few words on how I research. My work is based on interviews with the actual people who made the ware. For example I recorded over 11 hours of conversations with Sir Tom Clark, the founder of Crown Lynn, and many more interviews with people who were involved with Crown Lynn in various ways.  I transcribed those interviews and used them as the basis of my first book.

As we all know, memory is fallible and often I was told different dates by different people - and sometimes I heard widely differing versions of the same story. 

Where possible I found newspaper clippings, catalogues or other documents to clarify and support my writing. Through the 1960s and 1970s Crown Lynn published a series of newsletters which I was allowed to copy. I also seached out advertisements, which are an accurate record as they were prepared and placed by Crown Lynn. 

However problems arise when you get two different newspaper articles which give differing stories and differing dates. Journalists often base their work on what they are told, and there are pitfalls in that approach.  

My books were both edited at Penguin publishers, and my skillful and very thorough editors picked up inconsistencies in spelling and dates, for which I am forever grateful. 

Sometimes even the internal Crown Lynn publications were in error. Ernest Shufflebotham, creator of the lovely 'Hand Potted' whiteware, was always called Ernie Shufflebottom, in every Crown Lynn newsletter and by all his workmates. It was only after he died that his family in England got in touch with New Zealand researchers and asked us to make a correction. This was too late for my first book, but not for my second.  

After my books were published a whole lot more documentation was made available through the Richard Quinn collection which is now archived at Te Toi Uku, the Crown Lynn museum in New Lynn, Auckland.  Those documents include many catalogues and workbooks from the Crown Lynn factory itself.  They were gathered up by Richard Quinn and others when the factory was closing and was about to be demolished. 

They give more accurate dates than I was able to discover, plus a whole lot of new information.  Much of this new info has been added to the wonderful New Zealand Pottery website by Ev Williams and her fellow researchers. 

I also owe a debt of gratitude to previous researchers, in particular Gail Lambert/Henry and Olive Hale. 

More soon. 


Friday, December 1, 2017

Anthony Morris exhibition - wonderful history

Here I am straying into studio pottery, but I have to write about my visit to the Anthony Morris exhibition at Morris and James in Matakana. I loved it!  The exhibition is entirely focused on the art/craft of Anthony Morris, rather than on the wider Morris and James products.  Morris and James is famous for its pots and platters in amazing bright bold colours and patterns, but this exhibition shows a different side to its co-founder. 

The exhibtion closes on 10 December 2017. I hope you get a chance to see it. 

First I have to point out that I am not a qualified critic of studio pottery. My opinion is definitely based on the old saying - "I don't know much about pottery but I know what I like". 

Let's start with his 'shades' - there is a whole wall of plaques decorated with human faces, created at a time when Morris was at a personal low point.  This one caught my eye.  They are not for sale. 
Anthony Morris learned to pot in the UK, here are some of his early salt glaze jugs from the exhibition.
 Close up  on this mug you can see his mark. 
A trip to France inspired large rustic platters, with the irregular decoration which is one of his hallmarks. 
 These big fat pots are decorated with sgraffito on white slip. He told me that his aim at the time was to develop a slip that slowly flaked off the terracotta, giving his pots a gentle aged look.  Much of his older work was hauled in from the garden for the exhibition - some still has a patina of moss and algae. These pots are big - from memory over a metre tall. In the background to the left you can see the wall of  plaques he calls shades. 
There is a series of fat wonky African-style pots that really took my fancy.  From memory 40-50 cm tall. I would happily have any one of them in my house - but again, these are history and not for sale. 
Most impressive were these huge pots below, made of coiled clay and in the most amazing rich colours.  They were made on a turntable with a helper slowly revolving the base to keep up with Ant as he built his pot higer and higher.  The largest are at least as tall as I am.  I could not manage a photo that does them justice - I hope you get the chance to have a look for yourself.
Anthony Morris had a severe stroke in 2004 at the age of 68. Since then he has returned to pottery with only his good side functioning - the stroke deprived him of the use of his dominant left hand.  His work is now smaller and more 'wonky' than it was pre-stroke but he is creating some interestingly glazed and decorated slabwork plaques and dishes. 


Also exhibited are glass pieces which Morris created before his stroke. 
And here is Anthony himself, still thinking of his next (secret) project which will be unveiled in the fullness of time. 
That's all for now.  Next time I will be back to commercial pottery!