Saturday, May 14, 2022

In memory of Mark Cleverley - Crown Lynn designer


More sad times in the Crown Lynn world - in May 2022 we lost Mark Cleverley, one of Crown Lynn’s outstanding designers, and indeed a New Zealand design icon.

 Along with fellow designer Dave Jenkin, Mark Cleverley was a mainstay of Crown Lynn design. He worked there for ten years, helping  to move the pottery to the forefront of industrial design in New Zealand. David Jenkin hired Mark Cleverley in 1968 as Development designer. Mark was a professional, already known to Crown Lynn because he had won two design competitions and entered others. His officially described role was to look at world trends and create designs in keeping with overseas tastes but with New Zealand style.


Above Mark Cleverley and David Jenkin at work (Image from 'Mark Cleverley Designer' by Jonty Valentine) 

 Mark brought a new precision to Crown Lynn design.  His approach was mathematical and technical. He worked by measurements, and he used instruments. He believed in perfect symmetry.

 He stayed at Crown Lynn until early 1980, leaving soon after Dave Jenkin retired. Mark continued to work in design until the 1990s, and also taught a new generation of polytech students. During his entire career Mark worked in many different fields including stamps, buildings, graphics and packaging as well as ceramics.

 Mark Cleverley was kind and generous with his time and knowledge, to me and to other researchers.  I have no background in design or in ceramics, and Mark went out of his way to make sure I got my facts right.  He added immensely to my understanding of design.  He helped me to see that the shape and the decoration of an object need to be harmonious.   There is no point in creating an elegant cup unless the handle looks like it is part of the same form.  And the decoration must look ‘right’ on the shape it is created for.  There is a difference between a rose transfer plonked onto a plate and a pattern – eg his famous Echo – which has been specifically created to fit that plate.  Ceramics are three-dimensional.   You draw your design on paper, then it has to be formatted to conform with the curves of a cup or bowl.  Then there were the practical issues – how to make a teapot with a lid that didn’t fall off, and a spout that poured cleanly?

 Technically, there must be compatibility between the style of design and the materials and processes in the factory.  There was no point in creating a beautiful shape if it could not be mass-produced in the factory machinery.  


Mark’s most well-known design is Echo which was released in 1969 and was still on sale in 1979. This was produced on the Murray Curvex machine but pushed the technology to the limits, printing the flowers first in black on the white bisque, with the semi-opaque red added later, and a black line on the rim was rolled on by hand.  Amusingly Crown Lynn publicity described  Echo as influenced by the flower-power hippie culture, drawn with ‘reckless abandon.’


Palm Springs

This pattern was a winning entry by Mark Cleverley in the design competition of 1963.  His entry was depicted in shades of grey, but the final version was in shades of brown.  Palm Springs was used by American Dorothy Thorpe for one of her ball-handled ranges. The picture above is is a version of the Dorothy Thorpe range with an 'ear' handle rather than the ball handle.  Along with the Pine pattern, Palm Springs sold well in New Zealand, on standard Crown Lynn dinnerware shapes.


Today, Juliana is one of Mark’s most sought-after designs. At the time it didn’t sell well in New Zealand and was thought to be too avant-garde for our tastes. This is on the Forma shape, which was jointly designed by Mark and David Jenkin.  Mark also designed the fluted Apollo dinnerware range, which was sold mainly in white. 

 The Luke Adams coffee set

This coffee set was selected to be part of an exhibition held at the Design Centre in London in 1969, celebrating “examples of this country’s achievements in industrial design.” Designed by Mark Cleverley and Dave Jenkin for Crown Lynn, it was made at the Crown Lynn-owned  Luke Adams pottery in Christchurch. Image from a Crown Lynn publication

 Expo 70 ware

In 1970 the New Zealand Meat Board had a large pavilion at Expo 70 which was held in Osaka, Japan. Mark and Dave Jenkin designed a set of dinnerware for the Geyser restaurant there.  As well as these ‘geyser’ plates, there were various lidded serving pots in a deep green.

Mark Cleverley leaves a rich legacy of design, in other fields besides Crown Lynn.  The book Mark Cleverley Designer by Jonty Valentine, gives a good overview of his work.  It is published by Objectspace gallery/David Bateman.  

My condolences to Mark's family, he will be sorely missed. 

And my usual end note:  I do my very best to ensure that my information is correct, but if you see any errors or omissions, please let me know. 


My book Crown Lynn a New Zealand Icon, and unpublished interviews with Mark Cleverley and others

Mark Cleverley Designer by Jonty Valentine, published by Objectspace gallery/David Bateman 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


A New Zealand pottery stalwart

In March 2022 we lost Chris Harvey, who spent much of his working life at Crown Lynn, then moved to Studio Ceramics. Chris was an all-round asset to the ceramics industry, with both technical and management skills.  Personally, he was very good to me and to other researchers.  His information was invaluable when I was writing my first Crown Lynn book, and later I picked his brains about Studio Ceramics.  Chris always had a smile and a story or two – some of them unprintable.

Chris Harvey started work at Crown Lynn in Auckland as a young cadet in 1963. Like his fellow cadets, he was sent to Stoke-on-Trent in England to gain a degree in ceramics. He came back to Crown Lynn in 1970, where he learned the practical details of commercial pottery manufacturing.  After various middle-management positions at Crown Lynn, Chris was ready for a new challenge.  His Crown Lynn boss Tom Clark sent him to the Philippines, where he played a major role in setting up and running Mayon Ceramics.  When Mayon closed in 1975, Chris moved on to Royal Grafton in England, also owned at that time by Crown Lynn.

Above:  a young Chris Harvey (left) in 1963 with his fellow cadets Richard Poynter and Rod Humphrey (From a Crown Lynn publication)

 In 1984 he came back to Crown Lynn in New Zealand.  For some time he was General Manager, but by now the factory was failing and it closed in May 1989.

(I do need to point out that Chris was not responsible for the closure of Mayon, or of Crown Lynn.   Both factories were condemned by factors far beyond his control).

Not long after Crown Lynn shut down, Chris joined the newly established Studio Ceramics, which he part-owned and managed until about 2010. At Studio Ceramics he worked with Christine Harris to create the popular range of florals, increasingly sought after today.

Above: Christine Harris 'Floral Yellow Blue" ware from the earlier days at Studio Ceramics. 

 At its height in the early to mid- 1990s, Studio Ceramics was supplying about 70 New Zealand outlets, with up to 30 staff making well over 100,000 pieces a year. Malcolm Johnstone was in charge of the business operation, Chris Harvey was the technical expert and Christine Harris looked after design, decoration and marketing.

Above: Chris Harvey and Christine Harris at the Studio Ceramics factory in 1994 (NZ Herald) Apologies for the poor quality of this pic, it is a scan of a photocopy. 

 When he moved to Studio Ceramics, Chris recruited a number of the out-or-work staff from Crown Lynn.  He was able to give them ceramics jobs when there were very few around.

Above: Studio Ceramics popular 'To the Sea" range. 

After Christine Harris left in 1995, Chris and his partner Adrienne Lovell, along with Malcolm Johnstone, continued to manage Studio Ceramics. Sadly, in about 2010, Chris had a sudden devastating illness and was unable to continue working.  Before long the business was sold to Philippa and Ken Croft, who kept it going for about six years.

 In particular, I remember Chris for his great turn of phrase.  Here he is – verbatim - describing a seconds sale at the Studio Ceramics shop in upmarket Auckland suburb of Parnell: 

“And on Friday they used to sell specials, Friday was the cleanout day, and honestly, these ladies… every Friday morning they would be down here, honestly, there’d be queues of them, these little old ladies with their gold chains, on their hands and knees groveling around to pick up bloody seconds.”

Chris’s knowledge and skills commanded respect in the ceramics industry.  Crown Lynn founder Sir Tom Clark described him as a keen young man in his early days, and a ‘great guy’ in his later years.  “He’s doing a lot of the things that I wanted to do. He’s got his feet on the ground…He can see where there’s opportunities...  He is small, light on his feet… I think he has got himself into a very good position in the marketplace.”  

 Chris Harvey is survived by his partner Adrienne Lovell, their child and the three children he had with his late first wife, Margaret Harvey.  My condolences go to them and to the wider family. Chris will leave a big gap in their lives.

Val Monk
22 March 2022





Monday, February 21, 2022

Artist and craftsman

Perhaps best known for his bright bold glazes from the 1990s and 2000s, Aucklander Bob Steiner is an accomplished sculptor as well as a ceramicist. This post tells his story from a teenage enthusiasm for hand-thrown pottery to the remarkable range of castware he produces today. 

Bob Steiner at work in his studio
Image courtesy Bob Steiner 

Click here for Bob Steiner's website 

Bob Steiner started potting at the age of 14.  He worked with clay dug from the family land and fired his pots in a home-built kiln. He was so enthusiastic that his father bought him a potter’s wheel as a 15th birthday present.   After a stint studying pottery and sculpture at Elam Art School, Steiner and his partner Lynn headed for the remote Hokianga in the Far North.  There, the couple had three children and built their own house. Bob made a living from pottery, supplemented by part-time jobs like driving the local school bus. Lynn worked as a school teacher.   Bob's pots were hand-thrown on the wheel and fired in a large wood and diesel kiln. Even then, Steiner was searching for new ways to work.  “My bible was  A Potters Book by Bernard Leitch.   It led me into the amazing world of ash glazing and I would run around the hills gathering plants and leaves to burn and wash and mix.”  
Early salt glazed wine bottle made by Bob Steiner in his teens in Birkenhead (1968)
Image Bob Steiner  

In 1984 Bob Steiner moved back to Auckland after his marriage ended.  He soon met up with ceramic artists Christine Harris and Rose Wallis, both based at the D’Art Studios co-operative, and their work inspired him to move from earthy hand-thrown ware to slipcasting and decorating in bright clear colours. 

In the Hokianga, Steiner had been experimenting with his hand-thrown pieces, slicing them with a knife or thin wire and reshaping them by hand to create angular forms that could not be achieved using a wheel alone. In Auckland he learned how to replicate the new shapes over and over by slipcasting in moulds.  The new techniques created the popular 'Swirl' teaset, with its unusual curves and cut-out lids. Other ware created in this way included the Swirl dinner set – its plates and bowls had cut-out sides.    

Swirl tea set C1985
Image Bob Steiner

Often glazed with different shades inside and out, Bob Steiner’s new ware was snapped up by Aucklanders looking for new lively shapes and fresh bright colours. A Swirl tea-set gained a merit award in the 1986 Fletcher Brownbuilt ceramic awards.  

Initially working mostly on his own, Steiner developed his shapes and techniques and used plain glazes rather than brushwork. Rose Wallis decorated some early work with floral patterns. New shapes included deco-style ware - mugs, teapots, milk jugs and sugar bowls.  

At first production was on a small scale.  He sold from the D’Art Studio premises, and sometimes from stalls at the Victoria Park and Oriental Markets. Soon shops throughout New Zealand were keen to stock his work. One prominent retailer was the New Vision Gallery in Auckland. 

The business stepped up in 1988 when Steiner established a workshop in his basement at home and began working with ceramic artist Sharyn Maude.  Together they developed a range decorated with brightly coloured brushwork. Most of their collaborative work bears the Eido stamp.  The pair joined the Pots of Ponsonby co-operative and had a very successful four years before going their separate ways.  For a time after the partnership ended, Sharyn Maude made very similar mugs, marked with her name only.

Early deco teapot. Decoration by Sharyn Maude C1988
Image Bob Steiner 

This Hexagonal coffee set is an early creation.  It was decorated by Sharyn Maude C1988/1989, Coffee pot height 22 cm
Valerie Monk

Occasionally collectors come across Crown Lynn shapes with the Steiner/Sharyn Maude Eido backstamp.  After Crown Lynn closed in 1989, Steiner bought a whole lot of unglazed blanks – mainly dinner plates and a few odds and ends like gravy boats from the 1980s Modello Collection.  The blanks were decorated at the Steiner workshops and on-sold. 

Gravy boat decorated by Sharyn Maude.  The blank was purchased at the Crown Lynn factory closure. 
Valerie Monk 

Many of the shapes Bob Steiner developed during the late 1980s-1990s are still in production – for example tall Cuba jugs, vases, assorted mugs and coffee pots, and teapots and cups and saucers.  A classic rounded teapot set was inspired by the German Bauhaus design movement.  

This teapot from the late 1980s is still popular
Image Bob Steiner

A line of vases still being made today dates back to Bob’s original technique, slicing and reshaping hand-thrown ware. The Cactus, Round Leaf and Pointed Leaf vases were first made in 1986.  They were difficult to slipcast until the moulds were remade by retired Crown Lynn modeller John Cowdery.  

Steiner vases.  From left, Cactus, Round Leaf, Pointed Leaf. Cactus vase height 40cm
Image Bob Steiner

After a decade working in co-operatives, in 1991 Bob Steiner opened his own workshop and retail business at 440 Kingsland Road.  For a couple of years he also sold at Pots of Ponsonby but that relationship faded as turnover grew at the main shop.  After the move to Kingsland, Bob ventured into more sculptural work, including striking eccentric pieces like his rockets and lionfish. 

Wall-mounted lionfish decorated by Frana Stanish. Recently brought back into production, the lionfish are now sold in plain glazes only. Largest lionfish height 28 cm
Valerie Monk 

By now Bob had joined forces with Frana Stanish and together they developed a range of colourful patterns applied with brushes and hand-cut sponges.    At its height the business employed five women decorators. The best-selling design was Aster which came in three colourways – marigold, purple and green. The Cactus and Anemone patterns were also popular. These sponged and hand-brushed styles peaked around the mid-1990s.  In 1996 Frana Stanish left the business, but her patterns were replicated for a couple more years by another decorator, Jo McClean. 

Steiner mugs in Cactus, Marigold Aster and Anemone patterns. Decorated by Frana Stanish 
Valerie Monk 

Toward the end of the 1990s the market for multi-coloured hand painted ware was fading and Steiner created his bold single-colour matt glazes, including the very popular electric blue.  

Towering Steiner Cuba jugs in colourful glazes were first made in the late 1990s. When he was modelling this jug, Bob dropped a cylinder of clay on the floor to flatten the base, and to create a more relaxed shape. Every slipcast jug carries his handprint on one side, where he squeezed the  soft raw clay shape of the original.   The same form was used as Cuba Vases and later Cuba lights. Jug height 40cm
Image Bob Steiner

In 2002 Reg Matthews, originally from Beach Artware, began working with Bob Steiner.  He suggested a range of square wall hangings. Inspired by his association with the native bush in the Hokianga, Bob developed a very successful new line of wall art, at first rectangular and square plaques, and later birds, leaves and flowers. All of these pieces can be arranged on a wall in an endless variety of configurations. 

Steiner wall plaques form an exquisite memorial at Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby. Bereaved families are able to buy a plaque to remember a loved one, and proceeds go to the hospice.  The plaques are arranged on walls surrounding a peaceful courtyard.   The project began in the early 2000s and continues to this day. Here, a new plaque is being added to the wall.
Image Bob Steiner

In 2009 Steiner Studios moved from the home workshop to a purpose-built pottery in Avondale.  In 2002 Bob remarried and his wife Alison Steiner was very active in the business, particularly in management, business development and strategy. Bob and Alison had a son together. 

Today, a small team continues to recreate Bob Steiner classics – and he still keeps the work exciting by creating new pieces. New shapes are first roughed out in clay, then finely sculpted in plaster.  Slipcasting moulds are made from the final plaster prototype. 

Wall decoration assembled from Steiner flowers, birds and leaves
Image Bob Steiner 

Steiner takes much of his inspiration from New Zealand culture, often incorporating tapa and koru designs. Looking to nature for inspiration, there are skillfully rendered flowers, leaves, birds, bees, and a sea creatures series including shells, starfish and fish. Some small dip bowls were created using the direct imprint of a leaf – eg totara, taraire and fern.  Birds include the New Zealand ruru, tui and the ever-popular fantail (piwakawaka). 

Steiner Fantail (Piwakawaka)  Approx height 15 cm
Image Bob Steiner

Above: Steiner once bought a fresh hapuku - a substantial purchase at $100.   A wall decoration was modelled from the complete fish, and then it was turned into a sumptuous meal.   Later,  the picked-over skeleton served an artistic purpose.  The bones were cleaned then used to model a series of decorative wall plaques.  
Image Bob Steiner

Some Steiner pieces are quite quirky – for example a kiwi steps directly out of the wall, and there’s a snapper head with ears and another with horns.   A decorative rocket in four different sizes has engendered speculation over the years – it has even been mistaken for a half-peeled corn cob. 

Steiner wall rocket
Private collection 

Bob Steiner has also made one-off sculptures, some simply for his own satisfaction and others for fundraising for organisations, eg Tiritiri Matangi Island.  

The Time Bomb, a one-off humorous clock
Image Bob Steiner

Soda-glazed bowl originally sculpted as a fundraiser for Titirtiri Matangi Island bird sanctuary
Image Bob Steiner

In addition, the classic Steiner dishes, ornamental jugs, lamp bases, teapots, mugs and vases still sell well.

Classic Steiner cup and saucer sets
Image Bob Steiner 

Other more pragmatic work includes the development of stylish and durable restaurant ware.  For the hospitality industry, ware must resist chipping and staining, and be able to withstand endless dishwashing cycles. That work has paid off, now Steiner ware is used by many of Auckland’s top eateries. 

Restaurant ware
Image Bob Steiner

Bob Steiner timeline

1974 began professional pottery in Kohukohu in the Hokianga . Hand-thrown ware carries the impressed volcano mark symbolising earth and fire. 

1984 – moved back to Auckland and began making cut-sided ware, including plates, bowls, tea sets.  Deco cups were also quite early and later deco teapots with the zig-zag pointed handles.  Ware from this period is marked with the Bob Steiner New Zealand signature stamp (see backstamps below).

C1985-1991 Eido branded with Sharyn Maude 

1986 Fletcher Brownbuilt Awards certificate of merit

1986 D’Art Studio folded and Steiner travelled to the US. 

1988 After return from overseas, set up a workshop in his basement  

1991 – opened Steiner Studios shop in Kingsland 

From 1992 - C1997 Frana Stanish two backstamps. Frana and then the smaller FS  

C1993/4 single colour matt glazes developed 

1997 Steiner began putting dates on his backstamps from this year

2002-2003 Reg Matthews joined, began making wall art   

2005 wall art first appears in trade show displays 

2005 transparent stick-on labels used

C2003 began making dip bowls imprinted with natural leaves  

2008 piwakawaka and large tui appear in trade show displays

2008 wall art squares appear in trade show displays

2008 University of Auckland 125 years commemorative gift 

2009 wall art flowers appear in trade show displays

2009 moved from a home workshop to new premises in Avondale 

2010 first lamp bases in trade show displays

2012 large snapper in trade show displays 

Bob Steiner marks and backstamps. 

1974-1984"Volcano" mark on hand-thrown pieces.  

1984-C1986 Bob Steiner stamped signature (the triangular mark below the signature is of unknown purpose) 

1985-1991 Eido mark with Sharyn Maude 

1992-C1997 Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios

1992 Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios Frana Handpainted

1992-1997 Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios FS and Steiner Studios FS

C1992-C1999  Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios (Frana pattern painted by another decorator) 

1997-2002 Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios 97 (I believe 1997 was the first year Steiner dated his ware) 

Made in New Zealand Steiner Studios 2002

2008 Auckland University commemoration 

Made in New Zealand Steiner Ceramics 2008

Bob Steiner Ceramics 2009 

2010 Steiner Ceramics New Zealand stamp plus New Zealand Flora Kawakawa sticker 

2015 Steiner Ceramics NZ (Kiwi stepping out of the wall) 

C2018 Steiner NZ

2019 Steiner Ceramics NZ 

2020 Steiner NZ 

From 1996 Blue Ponga Designs 

2004 Bob Steiner Ceramics New Zealand (impressed)

2004 or 2005 New Zealand impressed (pipi dip bowl) 

Made in New Zealand Steiner Ceramics by Bob Steiner (transparent sticker) Date uncertain

Bob Steiner Ceramics New Zealand (transparent sticker)  date unknown 


The information for this post came from: 
  • Bob Steiner's website
  • Interviews with Bob Steiner by Valerie Monk and Ev Williams (2016) 
  • Following that interview, Bob provided me with a  selection of photographs and catalogues, and also added more information via informal conversations, documents and emails. 
  • The New Zealand Pottery website
  • Thanks also to Alison Steiner who complied records for my use and for future researchers.