Meanwhile, here is a picture of Daniel Steenstra at work. It is taken from a large newspaper advertisement - undated, but almost certainly 1960s. He was demonstrating his craft at the Crown Lynn shop in the Milne and Choyce department store in Queen Street, Auckland.
This is a vase which I am confident that Steenstra made and decorated. It was hand potted, then coloured slip was dabbed on to create a mottled effect. The horizontal lines are hand-incised grooves. He also made plant pots and lidded kitchen jars in the same style.
Another picture from the newspaper advertisement shows the types of vases Steenstra was making at the time. Imagine if you had all those on a shelf today... The planter in the top right hand corner is decorated in the same pattern as the vase above.
This link on the New Zealand Pottery site will take you through to a very interesting range of examples of work believed to be by Daniel Steenstra. (except that nothing in my records would indicate that he made the dogs shown in one post.)
Daniel Steenstra began work at Crown Lynn in 1953, and worked there for about 20 years. Occasionally during downturns he was put off, and had to find work elsewhere. In the end, as Crown Lynn became more mechanised, his skills became less and less relevant and he moved to Beach Artware, a much smaller pottery. He died in 2000 before I began my Crown Lynn research but in 2004-2005 I spoke to his wife Wendy and his son Dominicus, and also to Israe Paraone, who worked closely with him in the 1970s.
For many years I have struggled with a basic conflict over Daniel Steenstra. Some people told me he decorated his own work; others said his vases were painted by Crown Lynn hand decorators such as Frank Carpay, Doris Bird and Eileen Machin. Happily, I think I am now a bit clearer about this question. One clue is in my interview notes with Israe Paraone, who told me that Steenstra did paint his own work, and described his technique (see below). My interview notes from Eileen Machin tell me that some Steenstra pots were hand painted by Eileen and her colleagues, while others - described as 'outdoor pots' were slip banded by Daniel on the wheel.
So my educated guess is that Steenstra decorated vases and planters in the style of my vase above, and that he also occasionally decorated other items, but most of his vases were hand painted by other people.
Everyone who spoke about Steenstra told me that he was incredibly skilled with his hands - and these are hands that Israe describes as 'rheumatic and broken and sore' (possibly from ill-treatment during the war in Europe). Despite this, he could roll a cigarette one-handed, in his pocket. 'He would roll my cigarettes for the day – and look at you and grin.'
Israe described Steenstra's decorating technique like this: ' Danny would … mix up all the slip and glazes that go together in the weirdest way, use part of a torn old jumper, (as a paintbrush) and he would have two fish swimming underwater in the weirdest way...He was a very humorous, very talented, very funny guy. He had a quiet pride, he didn’t need the acclaim.'
Israe and Dominicus both told me that Daniel Steenstra helped the design team by making one-off samples as they were developing new shapes, and Israe said he also understood machinery and was a powerful innovator in how some of the processes at Crown Lynn evolved.
Both Crown Lynn founder Sir Tom Clark, and long-term finance manager and later GM Colin Leitch told me that Steenstra made lots and lots of very small items. Many were decorated in white, said Colin. This little treasure, no more than 6 cm tall, was found by John Shears - thanks John for the photos.
It is generally believed that these larger green vases with white dots were also made and decorated by Dan Steenstra, though I have not yet seen any documentation to confirm this. (photo thanks to Geoffrey and Brenda Clark). I have read that there were eight different vase shapes in this style.
NOTE... After I posted this, Ev from the New Zealand Pottery site gave me a link to the Auckland Museum Library site, which has some photos of Daniel Steenstra at work. It's a bit tricky - click on the link below, then click on the listing for Crown Lynn, then you will see eight pages of listings of photos etc. The pics of Steenstra are on pages 7 and 8.
But now it's stopped raining (finally) and I am going to see what's left in our vege garden after a week of rain and wind and rain and wind...