Wednesday, April 2, 2014

MADE IN NEW ZEALAND... my favourite dinnerware patterns

I have been digging through my boxes in preparation for my giant Crown Lynn garage sale... yes it's time to clear out a bit of space in our shed!  Anyway, that won't be for a couple of months yet.  But it has made me think about what I like and why.  And Nirvana, perhaps surprisingly, is my all-time favourite.  It's so very New Zealand, based on our pohutukawa flowers.  And just look at the glow in that background glaze. I don't know who designed it; probably Crown Lynn's long-term in-house head of design David Jenkin.  The desert plates in my set are the plain sandy colour.
Sadly, George has not yet come round to my way of thinking on this one, so my Nirvana dinner set remains in the garage. But I won't be selling it.
Second on my list is the cool elegance of Four Seasons... and this pattern gets a bonus point because of the lovely quirky backstamp. This is one of several banded patterns which were made by spraying coloured slip (liquid clay) onto the unglazed ware then overspraying with clear glaze, which makes for a very durable finish. Other banded patterns, released around the mid-1960s, were Hacienda and Carousel.  I wish I'd gathered up more Four Seasons when it was still around. Now you never see it, at least not at prices I am prepared to pay.
And here's my all-time favourite backstamp.
Next on the list has to be Echo. Once again, I have a full dinner set in the garage and he-who-must-be-obeyed is not keen on it. Oh well, I won't be selling it so I hope my descendants like it.  Echo was designed by Mark Cleverley, newly recruited to the Crown Lynn design team and described as drawing the design with 'reckless abandon' to appeal to the 'flower power' generation. Released in 1969, it proved to be one of the best sellers ever, and is one of the most instantly recognisable Crown Lynn designs.
Then there's Apollo. Simple fluted white, durable and - unlike many dinnerware patterns - very unobtrusive to eat off. In the past couple of years, the once ubiquitous Apollo has all but disappeared from op shops... I guess I'm not the only one who appreciates it. Apollo was released in 1969, and named to commemorate the first landing on the moon.

Yucatan, designed by Robert Drake, is another favourite. The late 1960s were outstanding years for Crown Lynn design, this pattern was released in 1968, the year I got married. Uncle Graham and Auntie Pam gave us a full dinner set for a wedding present. I wish I'd kept it in its box instead of using it; now I only have a few battered relics.  The cups and bowls were plain grey.

By the mid-1960s, Crown Lynn was in full production, using the automated Murray Curvex machines to print in-house designs such as Yucatan and Echo. These machines used a gelatine 'bomb' - a sort of half-sphere with a jelly consistency, to transfer ink from an engraved metal plate to unglazed bisque ware. It revolutionised production, both in terms of speed and also because it gave Crown Lynn the ability to decorate flatware without the laborious hand-application of transfers.  (The popular Autumn Splendour is a well known pattern which was applied as a transfer.)
This pattern below is another I am very fond of - and it too is very hard to come by.  It's an earlier pattern; its "British" backstamp and the shape of the plate places it in the 1950s or very early 1960s. I love the turquoise glaze, and the simplicity.
Crown Lynn used "British" backstamps in an attempt to hoodwink New Zealand customers into believing they were buying English-made ware.
And - last but not least, this plate at first glance looks like a big brown blob, but let me tell you this is very classy. It was designed by David Jenkin and Mark Cleverley in 1977 for the Bellamy's restaurant in Parliament Buildings. The very stylish MP Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan oversaw the process, and the end result was a stylised Maori fish-hook design with an amazingly rich finish. This photo does not do it justice; in the real thing you can see rich purple shades glowing in the varied shades of brown. I have only ever found one plate, and it's another that won't be in the garage sale!
More next time.



  1. Nirvana, Yucatan, Appollo- each wonderful in their own way. I started buying secondhand just because I hated the idea of buying cheap new sweatshop factory crap when there are so many quality pieces floating around. Temuka was my first love. Then wedgewood. I have a very mix matched collect and not a single Crown Lynn plate... Yet! Now I know what to look out for.

  2. Welcome to the wonderful world of Crown Lynn. Beware, it can become addictive!

    1. Hello, Writing from Canada! Grew up in NZ and had a few lovely white Apollo soup bowls and side plates until yesterday when they were smashed to smithereens by a cabinet falling off a wall... dreadful. Just wondering if anyone could give me a rough estimate of their (market) value. Thanks kindly, Freya in Montreal

    2. Hello, Writing form Canada! Grew up in New Zealand and
      treasured some lovely white Apollo soup bowls and side plates from my childhood until yesterday when they were smashed to smithereens by a cabinet falling off the wall... dreadful. Would anyone be able to give me a rough estimate of their (market) value? Thanks kindly.

    3. Hi Freya. Sorry for the delay - I have been away from my computer. I would say soup bowls are about $10 each NZ and the side plates say $8. What a sad event - and so far from NZ too... you can still pick up Apollo reasonably easily on TradeMe if you want to find replacements. (Which are not the same as the original childhood treasures I acknoowledge).