Beverley White bought Stage Artware in 1993 and sold four years later in 1997. She knew nothing about ceramics and at first there was failure after failure. Pottery is a highly technical business and fortunately Tom Hodgson and others from Western Potters Supplies helped her to learn better techniques. Soon she had the business back on track and earning money.
Everything from Stage Artware is hand-made. Each piece is cast in a mould, then fettled and painted, then fired in a kiln. Lastly it is dipped in clear glaze and fired again.
'Nouveau' Teapot. Beverley White collection
Beverley re-designed most of the existing shapes when she first took over, and many of the less popular patterns were discontinued unless someone specifically asked for them. Probably the best-known pattern is Fruit, which was developed by one of her artists, Sally Ann Hingston, and refined over the years.
Vase in Fruit pattern. Valerie Monk collection
Sunflower (below) was another very popular pattern, also developed by Stage Artware artist Sally Ann Hingston.
'Sunflower' vase. Valerie Monk collection
Beverley’s hand-painted patterns were quite detailed, with a number of different colours. Her artists had to work quickly and accurately. The painters had a certain amount of leeway but they still needed consistency with colour and pattern so that buyers got what they expected. Each piece was placed on a wheel to be painted – a flat platform which could be spun around. This allowed easy access without handling wet colours.
Most of the painters were art students who worked part-time. Beverley found that trained artists were better at the job – they generally had a lighter more fluid style, which suited customer tastes of the 1990s.
The Stage Artware from Beverley White's time is stamped. Her predecessors used stick-on labels but Beverley changed to stamping because that is a quicker and more enduring method.
There was only one major hiccup over shapes – someone else began making the distinctive ‘deco mug’ and it took a legal challenge to put a stop to that.
Valerie Monk collection
Like most commercial potteries, Beverley did special commissions for various businesses who would give their loyal customers a mug or other small gift at Christmas. That was quite a lucrative source of income. She also did a few one-off commissions for places like the Sheraton Hotel. Artist Vaune Mason made some sample vases and platters – the hotel took the little platters but the vases proved too expensive to make.
Sample vase for Sheraton Hotel (never went into production). Beverley White collection.
Beverley also experimented with painting fabric to make tablecloths and napkins to tone with her ceramics, but that idea never really took off.
One of the more eccentric products was a little pig. It was decorative only, not designed as a money-box.
Stage Artware pig. Valerie Monk collection.
Below, A Stage Artware lamp base with the original lampshade. This pattern is a copy of some fabric that Beverley owned.
The owners before Beverley were Maureen and Dennis O’Brien. Unfortunately Beverley can’t remember who she sold to, and so far I have been unable to find anyone who can shed any light on that question.
If you want to know more about Stage Artware, go to the New Zealand Pottery website and look at the beautiful gallery of thumbnail pics.
Also - more information here, again on the NZ Pottery website. These are individual comments and posts from various collectors and researchers.