Sunday, February 4, 2018

A serious mistake!

I have to confess to a mistake in my Crown Lynn Collectors Handbook. On page 136 there is a photo of a Pania of the Reef lamp base which is not Crown Lynn.


EDITS -  one of my readers - Karen  has shed some light on the likely origins of the Pania I discuss below.  In the catalogue of the Jim Durmmond auction of 22 April 2009, the very last listings are as follows.  (The numbers on the left are the lot numbers for the auction.) 

1891 ‘Marble Art’ resin Pania of the reef lamp base $250 - $300
1892 ‘Marble Art’ cast black resin warrior lamp base $200 - $250
1893 ‘Marble Art’ cast ochre coloured ancestral figure lamp base $300 - $500
1894 ‘Marble Art’ cast black coloured poutokomanawa lamp base $300 - $500

Karen also provided us with a link to more information about the likely manufacturers, a company called Marble Art.

And this is the link to the Jim Drummond catalogue, which Art + Object auction house has generously retained on line for us.,43,25,Jim_Drummond_Collection.pdf ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now  back to my original post - Pania on pg 136 of my Crown Lynn Collectors Handbook is not Crown Lynn! 

 It looks like it could be Crown Lynn, it feels like Crown Lynn, but there is absolutely nothing in the records that establishes that it is Crown Lynn.  Significantly, my researcher friend Ev Williams who has spent hours and hours sifting through the records which are now available at Te Toi Uku Crown Lynn museum, has found no reference to it.

The lovely little figurine with a New Zealand theme is almost certainly made by someone in NZ, but I have no idea who.  

Recently I was sent a pic which shows one of these lamp bases with a little sticker "NZ REG. DESIGN 11549" stuck onto the green velvet base. Maybe a NZ design researcher will be able to track down a maker with that information. 

It may not even be ceramic, though as yet we have been unable to find out what it actually is made of.  The owner of the one I photographed lives some distance away and I have yet to check it personally.

So why on earth did I put it in the book?  Believe me, I often ask myself that question.

Unfortunately I was shown it by someone who believed it was Crown Lynn, and I was so thrilled that I made a foolish assumption. The Three Faces of Eve lamp would have been a much more sensible example.

I must apologise to the Crown Lynn collectors who are seeking this piece for themselves - if you find one, by all means treasure it as a special piece of Kiwiana, but it is not Crown Lynn. And there are enough errors on Trademe without me adding to them! 

That lamp is hopefully my most substantial error, but there are others. 

Importantly, Crown Lynn designer Mark Cleverley told me of an error in my first book Crown Lynn a New Zealand Icon.  On page 108,  the Expo 70 Legend of Maui platter and the chopsticks fish hook were designed by Mark Cleverley not (as I was initially told) by David Jenkin. 

Like all researcher/writers, I do my best to thoroughly check and cross-check, but even so the occasional mistake slips through. 

It's ok if the error is online, I just do a quick edit - hopefully before it is re-posted, but an incorrect statement in a book is much more serious because it is there forever.  

Now - a few words on how I research. My work is based on interviews with the actual people who made the ware. For example I recorded over 11 hours of conversations with Sir Tom Clark, the founder of Crown Lynn, and many more interviews with people who were involved with Crown Lynn in various ways.  I transcribed those interviews and used them as the basis of my first book.

As we all know, memory is fallible and often I was told different dates by different people - and sometimes I heard widely differing versions of the same story. 

Where possible I found newspaper clippings, catalogues or other documents to clarify and support my writing. Through the 1960s and 1970s Crown Lynn published a series of newsletters which I was allowed to copy. I also seached out advertisements, which are an accurate record as they were prepared and placed by Crown Lynn. 

However problems arise when you get two different newspaper articles which give differing stories and differing dates. Journalists often base their work on what they are told, and there are pitfalls in that approach.  

My books were both edited at Penguin publishers, and my skillful and very thorough editors picked up inconsistencies in spelling and dates, for which I am forever grateful. 

Sometimes even the internal Crown Lynn publications were in error. Ernest Shufflebotham, creator of the lovely 'Hand Potted' whiteware, was always called Ernie Shufflebottom, in every Crown Lynn newsletter and by all his workmates. It was only after he died that his family in England got in touch with New Zealand researchers and asked us to make a correction. This was too late for my first book, but not for my second.  

After my books were published a whole lot more documentation was made available through the Richard Quinn collection which is now archived at Te Toi Uku, the Crown Lynn museum in New Lynn, Auckland.  Those documents include many catalogues and workbooks from the Crown Lynn factory itself.  They were gathered up by Richard Quinn and others when the factory was closing and was about to be demolished. 

They give more accurate dates than I was able to discover, plus a whole lot of new information.  Much of this new info has been added to the wonderful New Zealand Pottery website by Ev Williams and her fellow researchers. 

I also owe a debt of gratitude to previous researchers, in particular Gail Lambert/Henry and Olive Hale. 

More soon. 



  1. Please, don't beat yourself up about this. We are all on a voyage of discovery and NZ pottery is a real adventure.
    When I met collector Olive Hale of Gisborne in the early 90's, she gave me a catalog of her 1980's exhibition of CL held in Gisborne, and there were mistakes. She was an authority at the time and had lectured a Waikato University I believe. She had collected material for a book, the draft of which is now in the Auckland Museum I believe. Best wishes...

    1. Thanks Bill for your kind words... agreed, none of us are infallible! I never met Olive Hale but I had access to her exhibition catalogue. It was wonderful that she recognised the significance of Crown Lynn so early on. She put together a whole lot of info that would have otherwise been lost to later researchers.

    2. I understood from Olive that she had met Tom Clark with the idea of setting up a CL museum, but he wasn't interested.
      From what I remember her telling me, her original collection was the foundation for the Auckland Museum's collection of CL.
      When I went to see her she was still picking up bits and pieces and had other pieces that had failed the museum test.
      She place an advert in the Dominion newspaper wanting to sell what remained of her collection. I drove up to Gisborne and had lunch with her and was lucky enough to buy what she had left and it filled the whole back-half of my large car :)
      She also offered to sell me the manuscript for her book, but that was a bridge too far for me.

    3. Wow Bill you will have an amazing collection if it was inherited from Olive. I don't remember seeing her manuscript in the Ak Museum when I was doing my research but I am happy to hear that it is there now. Olive Hale was extremely generous with her research and her collection - making so much available to future researchers, including me.

    4. Sorry, it was Te Papa that has the manuscript!
      I knew I had read it somewhere but got mixed up with her collection versus her manuscript.
      From Te Papa website:

      "Olive Hale was one of the first collectors of Crown Lynn pottery.

      Annoyed that people laughed at her recommendation to collect Crown Lynn, Olive started collecting in ernest.

      Amassing a comprehensive collection, which was sold to Crown Lynn Potteries; this collection now forms the basis of the Auckland Museum collection.

      This research material includes catalogues, reference marks, interviews, pattern names, production ranges and records of potters, painters and decorators relating to research for her Crown Lynn publication."

    5. Has anyone accessed the Olive Hale material at Te Papa? It's on my To Do List next time I'm there, but it isn't happening quick enough for my appetite. Olive's Grandson contacted the NZ Pottery site and said that there were legal implications regarding her records, but he hasn't got back to us.

  2. I remember years ago visiting Olive Hale and admiring her collection. I promised her and myself that I would call back with my camera, but I can say that I never did. I now kick myself for that mistake.

  3. Something rang bells with me so I did some Googling - the following entry appears in the Art+Object catalogue for the Jim Drummond collection auction: ‘Marble Art’ resin Pania of the Reef lamp base
    $250 - $300. (See,43,25,Jim_Drummond_Collection.pdf)
    I Googled 'Marble Art' and found this link:
    Might be relevant?

    1. Wow thank you very much Karen. I haven't found an illustration of the Pania piece anywhere, but we can be 90% sure your sleuthing has found our answer. I will add your commments to the main body of my post and maybe someone else will read it and show us one with a sticker!
      1891 ‘Marble Art’ resin Pania of the reef lamp base $250 - $300
      1892 ‘Marble Art’ cast black resin warrior lamp base $200 - $250
      1893 ‘Marble Art’ cast ochre coloured ancestral figure lamp base $300 - $500
      1894 ‘Marble Art’ cast black coloured poutokomanawa lamp base $300 - $500

  4. All of us know how easy it is to make snafus - don't stress and thanks for your continued work on your blog which I always find fascinating.

    1. Thanks very much for this comment Minnie. And do read the update it looks as though a comment left by Karen gives us the origin of the mysterious Pania. We still need to see her in a company catalogue, or find a label, but I am hopeful.