Monday, July 15, 2013

Crown Lynn displays - Auckland 22 July, 4 August, 11 August

I have been thinking about how to approach my Crown Lynn displays at the Auckland Art Gallery this coming Sunday 22 July (and repeated on Sun 4 August). The theme is modernist design - a general term applied to simple structured shapes with clean lines and very simple - or no - decoration.

So where does Crown Lynn fit into that? Even in the beginning when Tom Clark and his team were struggling to make anything, they gave thought to how to make their products look good.

For that early period I will display things like my early kitchen bowl and the ceramic hot water bottle, which was technically very difficult to make but Tom also described it as having 'a bit of style.'
 This bowl is about 80 years old. Its glaze has a few blobs and dribbles, but its simple clean lines would not be out of place in a modern kitchen.
And look at this little ashtray - so gorgeously deco.
From these early products we will move onto the classic and long-lived items like the hotel jugs - made for at least 30 years. The red-lined version below was hand decorated for hospital use.  These simple jugs, most often found in undecorated clear glaze, have a dignity which again is not out of place in today's kitchens.
Then we have the gorgeous curved 1950s shape 709 jugs, which I just love. I bought this beauty complete with a worn glued-on picture of a bird.. the other day I finally scraped it off, which is bad form when you are supposed to be preserving history, but I think it was an amateur effort, certainly it was not a decoration from the Crown Lynn factory.  The jug's simple shape and glaze complement each other so well.
Which brings us to the point that all through the history of Crown Lynn there was a conflict between the wish for simple stylish shapes and decorations and the fact that NZ buyers, on the whole, wanted flowers and 'fancy' decoration. 'Stick a rose on it and it would sell'  Alan Topham, the long-time marketing manager and later GM, once told me.   Frank Carpay initiated a 'war against the roses' with his bold designs - but they didn't sell at the time though they are very collectible today. (This, on a standard Crown Lynn shape, is less valuable than some of his other work.)
The lovely simple crisp shape 849 jug from the 1960s was usually sold complete with transfer - on the right we have Autumn Splendour, the best selling pattern right through the 1960s. Yet look how lovely it looks in a simple mustard glaze. You appreciate the shape more when it is undecorated.
And look at this wonderful colourglaze teapot. I am so pleased it is finished in a simple yellow glaze.
But then.. decoration has its place! Look at  this lovely Mexico Cook & Serve coffee can. Hand painted in the 1960s.
So. In summary. On Sunday 21 July and again on Sunday 4 August, I will be at the Auckland Art Gallery with an interesting and varied collection of my favourite pieces made between the 1940s and the mid-1960s. I am set down to speak about my collection between 12 noon and 2 pm, but I will be around all day and happy to chat and to sign my books.

And - wait for it... on Sunday 11 August Billy Apple will be at the Art Gallery with some of his magnificent collection of Dorothy Thorpe ball handled pieces.  Without doubt, he has the largest and most interesting collection of Dorothy Thorpe ever seen - that display will be well worth a visit as well.
These Crown Lynn displays are part of a series of 'Design Encounters' built around the Auckland Art Gallery California Design 1930-1965 exhibition.  Over several weeks, there are some great events to look out for - on Sunday 21 you can also hear Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins talking about how California design influenced NZ modernism (1pm) and at 3pm AUT Senior Lecturer Tony Robotham discusses the influence that California has had on the modern motorcar.

All design encounter events are free. It costs $15 per adult to get into the main California Design exhibition - which I wouldn't miss for all the tea in China!

The exhibition features more than 250 objects including furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, fashions from Levi Strauss & Co. and graphics by Saul Bass. A number of landmark industrial designs, ceramics, jewellery, metalwork, architectural drawings and photography are also on show.
The touring exhibition was organised by Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

All the best

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