Monday, December 2, 2013

In memory of Ray and Eileen Machin

Just look at this gorgeous vase. It was made at Crown Lynn in the 1960s and it still looks fresh and modern today. The vase was made by Daniel Steenstra and hand decorated by Eileen Machin.
When I was researching my first book I spent a lot of time with Eileen and her husband Ray. Both these lovely people have since died and this post is to acknowledge their contribution to Crown Lynn. 

Ray and Eileen arrived in Auckland in 1959, the day before the harbour bridge opened. At that time Tom Clark was recruiting specialists from English potteries to boost the quality of Crown Lynn's products. Ray was a mould maker from J & G Meakin;  Eileen a hand decorator - or 'paintress' as she referred to herself - from Johnson Brothers. 

Ray told me that it took seven years training to be a mould maker in England. "You started off getting everyone's afternoon tea, then slowly you would work up to being on the bench." When he started work at Crown Lynn Ray introduced new moulding techniques, improving quality and productivity. Very soon Tom Clark asked him to manage the mould room.

Here are Ray and Eileen at work at Crown Lynn, from a company newsletter in  September 1964.

And this is Eileen when I met her, with her three favourite vases (the blue one behind her in the background is not Crown Lynn.)
Sometimes Eileen's work is attributed to Frank Carpay - she told me a story about a dealer insisting one of her vases was a Carpay - but his work carries the distinctive 'Handwerk' mark on the base, while Eileen's is usually backstamped 'Hand Crafted' - very occasionally with her initials.
Most of the vases Eileen - and others - decorated were hand potted by Daniel Steenstra. To complicate matters, this one (below) looks like an Ernest Shufflebotham style but as far as I have been able to ascertain, he left Crown Lynn in 1956, before the Machins arrived. Anyway - each of these blue leaves was hand painted by Eileen, with careful shading of the colour.
For the vase below, Eileen applied the little flowers with a stamp, then hand coloured them. The silver was also hand applied.  
These lovely photos were taken by Studio Lagonda for my first book. 
The vases below are from an old auction catalogue. Eileen recalled that each was put on a small turntable and spun around, using a brush to apply the concentric lines.  For the vase on the right, paper stickers were applied to create blank dots as she applied the lines. Once the lines had been competed the paper was removed and the blank dots decorated with a brush. 
Here is a photo - from a March 1963 newsletter - of a painter decorating what looks like a lamp base  while a supervisor examines her work.
Ray and Eileen told me that Crown Lynn was very social in the 1960s and 1970s. The mould room boys used to hire a boat and go fishing on the Kaipara Harbour in the weekends, catching heaps of fish. And, said Eileen, "we went to the Crown Lynn balls all dressed up and when we got there we used to all say snap because we all got the same dresses from this little shop in New Lynn and we all had to go to the same hairdresser."   
After a few years Eileen left Crown Lynn and worked in a shoe shop - she enjoyed the break from the pottery business. Ray stayed on to the end, and helped package up the machinery when the factory finally closed. Here is a plate which was made to commemorate the last meeting of the Service Club - there were awards for working at the pottery for 20 years or longer. This plate is signed by all the club members on 24 May, 1989, at the time when the factory was closing. 
 and the other side..
More soon
Happy collecting!
Val Monk  



  1. What a wonderful story, Crown Lynn history brought to life.

    1. Thank you.. they were lovely - and talented - people and I really enjoyed writing about them.

  2. Thank you so much Val. It is great to be able to give credit to these designs to Eileen. I am so envious of her decorating skills, as they are simply superb. This is my most favourite post to date.

  3. She - and he - were both so self-effacing -.just doing their jobs... but they were great, and were spoken of very highly by Tom Clark and other management.

  4. Great article Val thanks, I love 'Paintress' especially.

  5. Hello, I cant find where to post a question to you so am using this opportunity here... Can you tell me please, Is Titian and Crown Lynn the same company? I have googled so much but cant find an answer. Id love some clarification on this. Kind regards

  6. Thanks for your question. Titian was a separate company until 1968, when Crown Lynn became the major shareholder. After this date, the Titian factory was operated as an offshoot of Crown Lynn. You can find out more information in my book "Crown Lynn Collectors Handbook" and also online at the NZ Pottery website,