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This was submitted to the Journal of Australian Ceramics to coincide with their 50 years of publication, in 2011. It was not published in full – this is the original version.


by Owen Rye

Congratulations to the people who for 50 years have contributed writing and images, and especially to the editors and those who have worked closely with them at the heart of this magazine.

My ceramics birthday also happened in 1962 so I feel an unusual affiliation with the magazine. I was a student in the Industrial Arts department at the University of NSW, a course set up mainly to train high school teachers. We had a choice of several major subjects including silver smithing, taught by Helga Larsen, furniture making and others – including ceramics, which I chose after being mightily impressed by seeing Ivan McMeekin throwing a pot. Apart from the seeming magic of that I had no awareness of what was involved in what was then known as pottery.

It was a lively place to study in the early 60s. We had Gwyn Piggott in for six months researching enamels. Shoji Hamada was an artist in residence for as I recall about six weeks and we were privileged (without really understanding that at the time) to become friendly helpers to him and have his friendship in return. Michael Cardew, who Ivan had worked with in England, was another visitor. Despite all this activity not many of us went on to stay involved. Those who did included my good friend Terry Kirk, Peter Travis, earlier Col Levy and later Geoff Crispin.

McMeekin’s ‘opposition’ in pottery education in Sydney was Peter Rushforth at East Sydney Tech, (now the National Art School, still at Taylor Square). I suspect that although they were quite friendly there was a degree of competition in the background. Ivan was influenced mainly by Sung China and Peter by Japanese stoneware, both of which were radically different to the earlier prevailing earthenware tradition in Australia.

I started going to see exhibitions – John Perceval’s Angels, and Derek Smith’s formalist works in Macquarie Galleries, one of several galleries that showed ceramics occasionally (mainly painting). It seemed possible to know of everyone who was a serious potter in Australia, there seemed to be so few. Milton Moon in Brisbane, Harold Hughan in Melbourne. The advent of Pottery in Australia gradually changed that by introducing new people and new work and it became the way of finding out what was going on around the country. It still serves the same useful role.

Also, at a time when there were virtually no clay bodies available to buy, and little knowledge of glazes for stoneware, the magazine began to disseminate technical information about materials, kilns and firing. Now, when everything has been available for many years, with instructions, technical knowledge has become almost unnecessary. A great omission in ceramics education over the years has been teaching the detailed history of our profession; fortunately it is contained within the pages of our national magazine.