Thursday, August 1, 2019

Titian and Orzel: random notes from our lunch


In July 2019, Titian collectors Louise and Danny de Varga invited us to lunch with Cameron and Beverley Brown, whose family established Titian Potteries and later Orzel. It was a lovely afternoon, a pleasure to see Cameron and Beverley again, and to talk to other collectors and researchers. Special thanks to Louise for organising this event! 

This blog is a random dump of notes that I scribbled down as Cameron and Beverley talked. It is based only on the pieces which were discussed at the lunch, and of course it only tells  bits and pieces of the Titian/Orzel story.  There is more info on the NZ Pottery website and on this blog.   My previous post is also useful.  This is a Titian facebook group run by Ev and Andrea. 


PLEASE let me know if there is anything I have got wrong in this post – added comments are welcomed.


Titian/Orzel timeline 
(information from Gail Henry’s book New Zealand Pottery Commercial and Collectable).
Cameron Brown Snr and his wife Dorothy established Sherwood Potteries in the Waitakeres in about 1951. 
In 1958 they moved to new premises in Henderson. Around this time the pottery was re-named Titian Studio.
In 1966 the business moved again, this time to larger premises at Takanini. The family sold shares to fund expansion. The shares were bought up by Crown Lynn Potteries and by about 1968 Crown Lynn had taken over Titian Potteries.
The Brown family remained at the Titian factory under the control of Crown Lynn for a time, but then set up the beginnings of Orzel Potteries in the family garage.  
They then left Crown Lynn/Titian and developed a busy and successful business of their own, selling under the brands Orzel, Aquila and Adelaar.  

‘Young’ Cameron, who was at our lunch, grew up with the pottery, and he and his wife Beverley took more responsibility as Cameron Snr and Dorothy grew older.  'Young' Cameron and Beverley were the driving force behind Orzel.  Today, they work with their son (also Cameron) making Kiwiana souvenir ware under the name Sherwood. 

Sherwood/Titian Potteries (1951-1968)
The photo above was given to me by Cameron and Beverley. It shows (front, from left) the three Brown brothers Cameron Snr, Neil Brown, Jack Brown.  At rear are 'young' Cameron (right) and his cousin Viv. 
Cameron Brown Snr was born in NZ.  During the war he served in the Polish merchant navy.  After returning from the war he worked at Crown Lynn for a while. He got jobs there for his brothers Neil and Jack. After a time, Cameron left Crown Lynn to set up his own Sherwood Pottery. Neil was in charge of casting at Crown Lynn, he knew about clay bodies and how to make slip for slipcasting.  He too left to work with Cameron Snr at Sherwood Potteries. Jack stayed at Crown Lynn until he died in the early 1970s. He was responsible for the machinery that made cups and saucers.

Titian Pottery marks
When Cameron Snr began marking his work, he usually painted a strip of colour on the base and scratched variations on the word Titian into it.   When Vic Lawson took over mould making, his moulds included shape numbers etc.  
So the early Titian ware is marked by a coloured smear, the later ware by numbers. Below is a typical mark from the early days of Titian Studio, almost certainly made by Cameron Brown Snr. 
Pic from the New Zealand Pottery website

Titian treasures 

The girl figurine below was made by Cameron Brown Snr in the very early days of Sherwood/Titian Studios. Photo by Louise
Below: Cameron Snr was very proud of this figurine as it is made from bone china. Camneron Snr worked very hard to develop a bone china clay body.   If you put a lighted match inside this little figurine, it glows.  Photo by Louise

The polar bear
Cameron told us that this polar bear was one of a series of animals made for the Auckland Zoo, to be sold in the zoo shop.  Cam’s brother Chris also remembers an elephant and a hippo but Cam can only remember the polar bear. 
Photo Ev Williams from the New Zealand Pottery website




A rare fish
Kate and Dayle showed Cameron and Beverley their fish. The Browns identified Cameron Snr’s writing on the base. This fish was part of the Titian exhibition curated by Mary Morrison.  It had its own protective box from that exhibition.
(Info from Rick). Kate and Dayle item, Louise pic

An even rarer teapot!
This cat teapot is from the very early days of Sherwood Potteries. It was shown to us by Cameron Brown's cousins. Cameron told us that the glaze was the same as is used on bathroom ware, eg toilet pans and handbasins.
Photo by Louise

Palmerston North Souvenir plate.

This plate appeared in two versions. There is this black on white and also a white-on-black version which Cameron remembers much better.  For this black on white version, the image was drawn on the raw clay by artist Teddy Rennie who worked for the Browns for a few years. Cameron said he was sometimes allowed to draw the simple bits, eg the branches of the trees, when he was a young boy. 


Teddy Rennie – artist and decorator
Teddy Rennie decorated a lot of the Titian ware. He was an artist from England, where his job had included drawing advertisements for fashion magazines. He was particularly skilled at depicting fur, eg fur coats. Teddy Rennie was a friend of Uncle Neil Brown’s. (Cameron Snr’s brother).  ‘Young’ Cameron was a schoolboy when Teddy was working at Titian.  Teddy made the marble, woodgrain and feather finishes on the Titian vases. The feather finish was made by applying a thick glaze which was literally given texture with a feather.  For the marble glaze, Rennie had two colours on his brush and manipulated the brush (which had a fine point) over the raw clay of the vase. He moved the brush sideways, dabbed it etc to get the marble effect.  The same type of technique was used for woodgrain.  The original colour would be sprayed on then the second colour applied with a soft brush. Rennie did not work for Titian for long, maybe three years… He was quite close to retirement when he came to Titian.  He had left by the time Titian moved to Takanini but Cam doesn’t remember any dates. 
Cam told me that Cam Snr originally developed crackle glaze and feather glaze to cover blemishes. Far too many of his pots had pinholes in the glaze and other defects, which of course he could not sell.  The thick textured glazes covered minor flaws.

The butterfly
Around 1951/52, Titian made blanks for Owen Salisbury, who had a factory where they were painted to make Salisbury Ware.  This butterfly would date from that time.  It is in very good condition.  (Julie C brought this to the lunch)
. Pic by Louise. 

Presley Ware black vase
A lot of black vases (and white) were made for Flower Beauty as well. 


The colourful dishes – and other copies 

Cameron and Dorothy told me that someone bought these dishes in Hawaii and asked the Browns to copy them, including the woodgrain effect on the back.  There are several shapes in this series. Cam told us that his family was asked to copy dozens of different things, including the toby jug Dick Whittington, the set of wall ducks, etc etc.  Wholesalers brought them examples and asked for copies.  Cam said his father had a rule that he would copy anything from overseas, but not  ware that was made in New Zealand. 


Decorating 
Mary Baillie painted all the gold lines.  Dorothy (Cam’s mother) did hand-painting and fettling.  She was not really interested in spray painting.  In the early days Cam Snr used a garden sprayer to spray glazes. He then bought a small and not very good compressor spray outfit.  That broke down at a time when they had no money to buy a replacement or pay for repairs.  They replaced the broken part with a sixpence coin, thereafter called ‘Mum’s lucky sixpence.’ 

Modelling, moulds etc
When they started, Cam Snr made all the models and moulds.  After Vic Lawson arrived, Vic did the modelling and moulds.  When Vic left, Hemara Hemara took that job. (I believe Hemara started when Orzel was being established).  Hemara modelled the Ti Toki bottles and shaped all the steins and mugs. He left in 1988.  Hemara’s son Paul Hemara also worked for Orzel, as did his brother Stephen (for a short period). 

A new (to me) treasure

This lovely vase came to me at the lunch. 1950s or 1960s? 

Orzel – after 1968

Generally speaking, Titian ware is finely made and decorative, as was appropriate for the fashions of the time (1950s/1960s).   Orzel, which had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, was far more 'handmade' in style, heavier and definitely utilitarian. 

The beginning of Orzel
After Crown Lynn took over the Titian factory, the Brown family continued to work there.  Then Paramount Trading gave the Browns a personal order for 6000 mugs and they began making them in their garage at night and weekends.  Cam Snr built a kiln in the garage workshop.  However Crown Lynn (at the Titian factory) was also making product for Paramount and they didn’t like the fact that the Browns were moonlighting. So Crown Lynn asked the Browns to leave the Crown Lynn /Titian factory.  
Dorothy in the very early days of the Orzel factory when it was still in the family garage.
Photo courtesy of the Brown family. 

Ti Toki liqueur bottles
Orzel made thousands of the big Ti Toki bottles, but they also made a run of little bottles which were given to First Class Air New Zealand passengers on a flight to the UK.  (I believe Cameron told me this was the inaugural Air NZ flight to the UK but I am not sure).  Cameron told us about the time they had an urgent order for the large Ti Toki bottles, so they rushed to get them all cast, fettled and glazed.  Cam Snr volunteered to watch the kiln that night, and turn it off when it reached the required temperature. However he went to sleep and the kiln was still going in the morning. It was far too hot and this is what the bottles looked like: 

Cam and Bev have kept these for many years. Bottles, Cam and Bev Brown, Pic Louise. 

Kitchen jars
Orzel and Royal Oak made very similar kitchen storage jars.  Some of the Royal Oak jars had stick-on labels and once contained ginger and other foods. Cam and Beverley told me that the jar below is Orzel.  The Orzel jar has a longer neck and a more pronounced shoulder than the Royal Oak jars.  Edward Salisbury from Royal Oak has also told me about the difference between the two shoulders.  Cameron and Beverley identified the writing on the base of this jar as Cameron Brown Snrs.  (ignore the green sticker, it is my ID system).  
The Settlers Collection
The Settlers Collection terracotta kitchen containers were made by Orzel for chain stores including The Warehouse. The lettering was stamped on using Indian ink.  Beverley did most of the stamping because she had a good eye and made sure the lettering was level. 

Coffee pot

This coffee pot is part of a set that I treasure. Bev and Cameron remembered Cam’s mother Dorothy offering to help fettle these pots... and she kept breaking the spouts. (Sellotape is holding the lid on this pic)



The large animals

Orzel/Aquila made a number of large animal figurines. Beverley decorated them with sprayed glazes.  I understand that they were all were made from Hobby Ceramics moulds which were imported by Chris Brown as part of his Hobby Ceramics business. (Chris is 'young' Cameron's brother).  The Aquila animals can be differentiated from Hobby pieces because they are made with heavier clay body and they are professionally decorated. Beverley remembers two owls, one sitting and one with wings outstretched.   Other animals included a big Alsatian dog and a big greyhound (thigh high), also an elephant with its trunk up and pink mouth, a big polar bear, a tiger standing on its four legs, and an eagle.  (Note that this list is probably incomplete, it is based on a very quick conversation I had with Beverley). 

The 1987 crash
Orzel lost a lot of money after the 1987 financial crash.  Cam and Bev would follow up on overdue accounts and often discover that the customer had gone out of business and their phone was disconnected. After the crash, Orzel looked for a more reliable market.  They made less general use kitchenware to be sold be retailers, and more large runs for private firms.  They made at least 60,000 little mustard pots for Colemans, and thousands upon thousands of steins for various beer makers and sports clubs. 

The steins

After Orzel began making steins and other ware with company logos etc, transfers were made at the factory and fired onto the ware.  Eg see the beer steins below. 
Joe Staples and Company ordered and on-sold a lot of the Orzel steins.  Below: At one stage Staples asked Orzel to reproduce all their old labels in an old-fashioned style on steins.  


Packaging
At Orzel, the cardboard boxes for packaging were all printed at the factory. 

Cameron and Beverley today
Although the mass-production days of Orzel are now over, Cameron and Beverley and their son Cameron continue to make ceramics. Now they focus on souvenir ware and Kiwiana to be sold at markets around New Zealand. Here they are with a set of decorative wall plaques created by Beverley. 
Pic by Louise

A little story about MckSkimmings - not related to Titian/Orzel
‘Young’ Cameron Brown told me this story about his grandfather, who worked at McSkimmings at Benhar in the South Island. The McSkimings family had substantial industrial holdings in the Dunedin area.  Their potteries included Abbotsford, Benhar,  Green Island and others.  At one of the potteries a new kiln was built.  It was designed to be run continuously, ie it needed to be stoked and looked after day and night, seven days a week.  However the McSkimings were very religious and would not allow their staff to work on Sunday, ‘the Lord’s day.’  The kiln was never used.  

ENDS

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Beach Artware C1971-1977




This gorgeous tea container was hand-thrown by Daniel Steenstra at Beach Artware in the mid-1970s. It is glazed in a glossy lead-based orange, with a glaze known as grey star around the top. There is no maker’s mark. Height 15cm.

Long before I found this piece, I had heard about orange Beach Artware.  Peter and Eva Beach and their successful pottery were a bit of a legend.  Through most of the 1970s they made thousands of kitchen storage jars and salt pigs - and they hit a sweet spot in the market, especially with their orange. 

Sadly, Beach Artware lasted for less than ten years. Peter had severe arthritis and died when he was only 42 years old. Not long after, Eva sold the business.

A few years back, I tracked down Eva and her daughter Sharon Codlin. Ev Williams and I were fortunate to be able to interview them before Eva in her turn passed away.

Above: Sharon Beach Codlin (left) and the late Eva Beach in 2015. Eva is holding one of the original lamp bases made in the family garage in the early 1970s. Photo V Monk.

This is what Eva and Sharon Beach told us. It is quite a long story but hopefully worth reading.

Aucklander Peter Beach began making kitchenware in his Henderson garage in the very early 1970s. He had been working at Crown Lynn as a glaze chemist until his arthritis forced him out of a job.

Peter recruited Daniel Steenstra, also from Crown Lynn, as his potter and designer and they soon had an order for 1500 lamp bases for a New Zealand chain store. There were two shapes, both modelled by Steenstra then slipcast.

Lamp bases - the first products from Beach Artware. The shape on the left was later adapted to make imposing salt and pepper shakers. Height 14 cm. 

Peter Beach and Daniel Steenstra then began making hand-thrown kitchen containers and within weeks they were so busy that Peter’s wife Eva and their 15-year-old daughter Sharon both joined the new enterprise. Before long they outgrew the garage and moved to a factory at 2A Rabone St in Henderson.

Peter Beach in the mid-1970s. Photo courtesy of the Beach family.

At its peak Beach Artware operated from three adjoining factory buildings with 13 staff. A team of production throwers made up to 600 hand-potted pieces a day, plus hundreds more pots were slipcast in moulds.   At a conservative estimate, 4000 pieces of Beach Artware were churned out every week.

This was a prosperous business. Peter and Eva built a stylish Spanish-style house complete with a swimming pool on ten acres in Kaukapakapa.

During those early days Peter told a local newspaper that Eva was the business brain.  ‘She’s co-director of the company, company secretary, sales director, kiln loader, packer, delivery girl.’  Eva ran the office and did the accounts, as well as her hands-on roles. Peter was the technical expert with overall management of the factory. He made most of the moulds for the castware and, importantly, he made glazes.

Beach orange-glazed ware was a runaway success. Peter had begun experimenting with orange at Crown Lynn, but didn’t get it into production until after he set up his own business. At first he made a rich matt orange with uranium oxide, but then the Government banned uranium imports and he changed to a glossy lead-based orange. The two glazes are quite easy to tell apart.

Above: the shiny lead-based glaze is on the left and the matt uranium on the right.

Both orange glazes had toxic components and could not be used where they could contaminate food or drink. It is unlikely that there are any orange Beach mugs, and the kitchen jars are white inside.

After joining the family enterprise as a young girl, Sharon thrived in the busy factory. She learned to throw pots as well as casting, glazing, finishing, and loading kilns. She also inscribed the words on most of the Beach Artware kitchen containers. Once she carefully inscribed “CORNFLOWER’ on a consignment of bright orange jars – her dad was not impressed. 

Sharon Beach Codlin still uses these kitchen jars today. Photo V Monk from S Codlin collection.

Daniel Steenstra, originally from an old-established pottery family in Holland, was the star thrower.  Eva told us that he ‘worked like a machine’, turning out hundreds of pieces all exactly the same with perfectly fitting lids. The lids were not made specifically for each pot. They were laid randomly in gaps between pots in the kiln, and lids and pots were married up after firing. 

Daniel Steenstra at Beach Artware. Photo courtesy of the Beach family.

Steenstra often decorated his pots with textured lines or chattering – imprints from a carved wooden tool rolled over the soft damp clay. 

Above: Vase and bowl decorated with chattering, though not necessarily by Steenstra as other Beach potters also learned the technique. Vase height 14cm, bowl 6cm.


Above: Another feature of Steenstra’s work is the koru-shaped swirl on the inside of pot lids. This detail helped prevent stress cracks. Again, other hand-throwers at Beach copied him. This detail is often found on hand-thrown Beach Artware, but is not specific to Beach. Below: the same whorl is very often found on the tops of Beach Artware salt pigs. 



Steenstra was a prolific maker of tiny pieces, including bud vases and little salt pigs and pepper shakers.

Above: These pieces are all less than 10cm tall. From left: bud vases, spice jar (front), an incense jar and a matching salt pig and pepper pot. Some Beach Artware bud vases are cast, while others are hand-thrown.

As well as orange kitchenware, Beach made various shades of brown and green, and a deep midnight blue with gold sparkles. There were kitchen jars, spice jars, jugs, salt pigs, salt and peppers, mugs, coffee pots, tankards, bird feeders, incense jars and the occasional jug, vase or bowl. Over the years several clay bodies were used, including white, terracotta red and a sand colour. Almost without exception the hand-thrown ware is has a flat, unglazed base. 

Above: Beach Artware salt pigs. The one on the left has been too hot in the kiln which caused the glaze to discolour. The salt pig in the centre carries the rare ‘DS’ mark.

Above: more Beach Artware salt pigs!  In the 1970s, these containers were a fixture on almost every New Zealand kitchen bench. Beach salt pigs are generally around 15 cm tall.

Most Beach ware is unmarked, though some slipcast pieces have TRADITIONAL NZ or BEACH ARTWARE or BEACH NZ impressed into the base. The ‘Traditional’ name arose because the company’s full name was Beach Artware Traditional Pottery.


Above: These Traditional jars were very popular.  Most are clearly marked and were known in the factory as ‘Trad jars’.  Please excuse the red sticker – it is my catalogue number. 
This jar is 14 cm tall.

Peter and Eva sold to about 90 retail outlets throughout New Zealand and made a few exports to Australia. An initial order from Melbourne was for 1000 pots.   They also had a shop at the factory – sometimes buyers were lined up waiting when the kilns were opened.

It was a constant struggle to keep up with demand. Eva would rush down to the factory early in the morning to empty the kilns.  Some pots were still so hot they burned the cardboard boxes as she packed them.  This of course is risky. Pots should cool slowly in the kiln; a sudden drop in temperature can make them crack.

The hand-throwers had a certain amount of leeway when it came to shapes. To my knowledge, the Beach family relied on glaze and texture for decoration; they never attempted to use commercial decals or hand-painting. The three pics below show Beach kitchen jars in various glazes. They are around 12-14 cm tall, including lids.



Most Beach jars are lidded, but a few (eg right, above) were made for corks. 

Above: this dark brown with the flowing creamy glaze over the top was almost as popular as orange.

Above: Beach Artware spice jars. They are about 9cm tall and mainly castware.

Daniel Steenstra mainly worked at production throwing - '100 pots a day' was his aim, but occasionally he made something special.  He threw the bowl below then carved it, using skills he learned from his pottery family in Holland. The style is called Snywerk and is very collectable.  He made this piece for the Beach family, who still treasure it today. From memory it is about 20 cm wide.

The bowl is marked DS by Daniel Steenstra.


Many younger potters learned their craft from Daniel Steenstra at Beach, among them Reg Matthews, Steve Fullmer and Peter Lenker - and of course Sharon Beach. Terry Williams was the glazer for many years.  Less skilled jobs were often filled by travellers in search of short-term work. Some were Hare Krishna devotees who took time off during the day for their religious obligations. All in all, Beach Artware was a very happy, busy place to work.

Throughout the early to mid- 1970s the business  prospered, but Peter‘s arthritis got steadily worse. He was in constant pain and becoming increasingly crippled. Until the family bought an automatic car, he was unable to drive without Sharon at his side to change gears.

At his workbench Peter made a special track for his seat to roll along, and he even had his painfully gnarled fingers surgically shortened so that he could continue to work.

In June 1977 Peter Beach died from complications related to his arthritis.  He was only 42. Everybody I have spoken to says that despite his illness he remained cheerful, positive and energetic to the last.

After Peter’s death, Eva was forced to sell Beach Artware to pay Government death duties – a tax which was abolished very soon after. The business was sold as a going concern, including all the shapes, moulds and glazes.

The new owner Don McKenzie re-named the business Kiln Craft. Then there was a legal challenge from Kiln Craft in England and the name was changed again, this time to Clay Craft.

Unfortunately, McKenzie was new to ceramics and at first he struggled to make consistent quality pieces. Many of the staff left during this time.  Sharon Beach and Reg Matthews moved to Norm Parker at Parker Pottery, while Daniel Steenstra went to Stewart Pottery, then moved again to help Eva’s stepbrother Peter Lowrie, who set up his own pottery after Beach was sold.


Identifying Beach Artware


Apart from the castware marked with TRADTIONAL or variations on BEACH, and the odd piece which carries the tiny DS mark for Daniel Steenstra, Peter and Eva Beach did not mark their product, not even with stickers.

So far as I am aware the orange pots – both matt and shiny - are almost guaranteed to be Beach, but the greens and browns are less straightforward.

There are strong similarities in both glaze and shape between Beach Artware and the Kiln Craft ware made immediately after the takeover. For example this mug shape was developed at Beach Artware, but you also see it marked as Kiln Craft and Clay Craft.

Above: These mugs were all made at Beach Artware. From left, they are marked Beach Artware (although the mark is heavily smothered in glaze), Traditional and Beach NZ. H 10cm.
 
 

However the two mugs below, in exactly the same shape, were made after Don McKenzie bought out Eva Beach.  They are marked Kiln Craft (left) and Clay Craft. 


Although Don McKenzie changed many glaze recipes after the takeover, there are strong similarities between the glazes used by Beach and the glazes on Kiln Craft pieces. 

Beach Artware jar

Kiln Craft jar

Above: The top jar was made at Beach Artware but you see almost exactly the same glaze on the 'Trad’ jar which is clearly marked Kiln Craft.


Above: These bowls were hand-thrown at Beach, but very similar shapes appear as castware with a Clay Craft mark. Width 11cm

There are also crossovers with a couple of other potteries.  When Beach staff moved on, they took their skills and their potting styles with them. Some Parker Pottery is very similar to Beach; this is because Sharon Beach and Reg Matthews moved to Parker after Eva sold up.

For example the two jars below are very very similar. I took them both to Eva and Sharon, and after a great deal of deliberation they decided that the honey jar was almost certainly Beach, while the marmalade container is Parker. The shapes are pretty much identical but the glazes are different. Sharon and Eva did not think that Norm Parker would have had access to the Beach family’s glaze recipes.
Beach Artware
Parker Pottery


There is also quite a bit of confusion between Beach Artware and Peter Lowrie's pottery. Peter Lowrie was Eva's stepbrother, and he worked for Peter Beach and Eva for a time. After Eva sold, Peter Lowrie set up his own pottery and recruited Daniel Steenstra to work for him. Because Steenstra was the senior thrower (and teacher) at Beach, there are strong similarities between the shapes made at Beach and at Lowrie. To add to the confusion, some Lowrie glazes are very similar to Beach, especially the brown.

Fortunately there is one clear difference.  On Beach ware, letters were inscribed into the soft clay, while Peter Lowrie and Daniel Steenstra used soft slip to create raised letters.

This is a link to a previous post on Peter Lowrie's pottery.


Above: These jars are not Beach Artware! They are typical of Peter Lowrie’s range. The shapes are similar to Beach but the writing is raised rather than scratched into the clay.


ENDS

Unless otherwise noted the photos are taken by me from my personal collection

My information came from the following sources: 
  • Eva Beach and Sharon Codlin, interview with Valerie Monk and Ev Williams, 20 June 2015
  • Newspaper clipping, PETER BEACH: Potter. Unidentified publication, given to the author by Eva Beach
  • Ernie Cooper email to Valerie Monk, 7 July 2015
  • Steve Fullmer, telephone interview with Valerie Monk, 2 October 2014
  • New Zealand Pottery Forum website