I return to a blog written 15 years ago and find that I still feel the same!
12th September 2007
Today I attended the funeral of my Aunty Myrtle who lived to the ripe old age of 91.
What has this got to do with painting or art for that matter? Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
Myrtle’s husband Allan, my father’s brother was a potter. The story goes that he became a potter almost by accident.
When quite young he met a man who asked him if he would like a job to which Allan said yes and took the man to meet his mother who assented to this arrangement and so began a lifelong profession and I believe, passion. He was employed by Premier Potteries in Preston which manufactured a large variety of pottery products from acid jars to egg cups. He became the senior potter within a couple of years due to the death of the original potter, a Mr Dee.
One of their products was the Remued range of domestic pots such as vases and platters etc. The classic form of these Australian pots with their gum leaves, koalas and other Australian fauna as well as featuring drip glazes has made them a very collectable commodity today.
Many examples now grace the collections of museums around Australia.
Myrtle also worked at the pottery and became Allan’s workmate as well as well as his wife and they worked together finally in Allan’s own business until his untimely death in 1979.
Being a good deal younger than my father Allan was more like an older brother to me than an uncle and I used to enjoy going to his factory and trying unsuccessfully to operate the potter’s wheel with Allan patiently trying to teach me.
Alas pottery was not for me, but Allan encouraged me to paint and was an inspiration to me as a craftsman of great skill.
He often comes to mind when I am painting, particularly when I am doing the things which require the learnt skills that I have acquired from my teachers and through practice.
Alan Martin once told me that watching Max Meldrum use a paint brush was like watching a great violinist handle his instrument. Watching my uncle on the wheel or even handling a long board with dozens of pots on it in or out of the kiln gave me the same feeling.
As an examiner at one of the largest art teaching institutions in Australia Allan used to bemoan the fact that many of the skills of the practical potter were being lost as art pottery became more the norm back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I guess that hasn’t changed all that much. I live in hope.
Don James 30th January 2022