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Robert Jefferson Ceramic Designer Part 1

December 16, 2019

robert jefferson

Robert Jefferson was a former lecturer in Ceramics at Stoke-on-Trent College of Art. He joined Poole Pottery in 1958 as full-time resident designer (rather than a thrower) working on domestic ranges and oven-to-table ware alogside potter Guy Sydenham.

When Poole Pottery was launched in 1921, Poole, Dorset, it was decided to make pottery, which was useful and ornamental, in a style both contemporary and also in the best traditions of potting. It was a very successful experiment.

Launched in October 1963, the so-called ‘Delphis Collection’ reproduced 75 or so vases designed by Robert Jefferson as a standard repeatable range. This allowed trade customers to place orders with a degree of certainty as to size, shape and price. Popular lines could be re-ordered from a catalogue. Although shapes were (to some degree) standardised, the colour, decoration, glazing and carving of each piece was unique.

The early Studio pieces were thrown by Guy Sydenham and decorated by both Tony Morris and Robert Jefferson.

After 1963 new patterns were added and there was a crossover of paintresses from other departments.

It must have been exciting times as there was much room for experimentation, mark making techniques and ideas were flowing.

Quite a variety of shapes and styles, in order to see which would catch the public’s eye and become popular.

There were few other potteries at the time producing studio pottery within a modern industrial environment in this way. (Rye and Denby too).

Robert later also worked for other compaies (like Purbeck) after he left Poole in 1966.

The use of the latest glazes and experimental techniques (such as wax-resist, see below) aided the development of new products and helped to preserve the unique identity of the Pottery. No doubt there was also perceived to be a niche market for highly individual works of art (the retail cost of one plate would be more than a weeks wages for the artist).

It’s Robert’s later work that I first encountered and that I was initially drawn to. Join me for Part 2 next week when I’ll show you more.

Many thanks to The Virtual Museum of Poole Pottery and Rob’s Poole Pottery for helping to make this post possible.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Gill Pemberton permalink
    December 16, 2019 11:12 am

    Your remarks re ” no other pottery producing studio pottery in a modern industrial environment ” misses the fact that Denby Pottery , in Derbyshire produced hand thrown ,hand decorated stoneware , as did Rye pottery .
    I was a designer there from 1960 -1981.

    • December 16, 2019 3:03 pm

      Thanks Gill, I stand corrected. Perhaps I need to have a look at what Denby was doing at that time then too. If you’ve any recollections, photos etc I’d love to hear them. Cheers Craig

      • Gill Pemberton permalink
        December 18, 2019 6:32 pm

        Lots of denby on pinterest ! Also in ” Denby Pottery 1809-1997, by Irene and Gordon Hopwood…lots of info and photos !
        I designed Chevron in 1962, and Arabesque. in 1963..which was their best seller !!
        I modelled all the handles ,spouts etc for the ranges…and worked very closely with the throwers, turners and decorators , not to mention the chemist ..Doug Stone .
        I designed many more…
        ..see the book ..and had 3 children AND travelled from leicestershire to Derbyshire !!

    • John McCollum permalink
      June 8, 2020 2:26 pm

      Hi Gill, Hope you get this.

      John “Doug” Stone was my grandpa. I was named after him. We don’t really know too much about what he did technically at Denby, but our houses are still crammed with all kinds of pots and seconds of all kinds of designs he brought home.

      Hi didn’t speak much about his work, but when the book on the history of the pottery came out he spoke very highly of you. Not so well of some other people perhaps, the corporate side of things never suited him.

      All the best

      John Douglas McCollum

      • Gill Pemberton permalink
        June 9, 2020 8:28 am

        Hi John, Delighted to hear from you ! Doug and I had a very good relationship…I would spend most of my time sitting in his ” office” checking out his latest glazes. That is how I arrived at Arabesque …I would spend maybe a morning painting one raw glaze onto another to see the effect ! Sometimes I would ask how/ if / what , would happen if this glaze was runnier …as in Mayflower blobs ! He was a very private man , but with a dry sense of humour …had the ” Daily Worker ” on his desk every morning ! My sort of person ! i think we both had the same regard for some people …and not others ! The awful mess with the two takeovers , and that dreadful man ..Barker ..who didn’t know a pot from a dustbin, and was put in to asset strip the place …was enough for me ! Time to go ! I retrained to teach adults at ” leisure ” classes , and made many good friends . Yet even teaching became corporate …and I was made to leave when I was 65 !! Happily , many of my students remain friends , with the same passion for pottery, and we get together often ..and occasionally fire up a woodburner Kiln in my back garden …built together ! And produce wonderful ” Raku ” pots . Will send photos if you are interested ! I live in rural Leicestershire , near Melton Mowbray ……are you in Derbyshire ? Maybe a meet up sometime to reminisce? I can still smell his pipe smoke ……

        Regards Gill

        Sent from my iPad


    • John McCollum permalink
      August 5, 2020 1:20 pm

      Hi Gill, apologies for my slow reply.

      My aunt (Doug’s daughter) and I at least would love to meet up. My mum died 12 years ago but would have loved to have met you too. My aunt cried when she read your reply to me and would be delighted to see you and take advantage of your kind offer.

      My email is

      Please get in touch at your convenience



  2. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia permalink
    December 16, 2019 11:47 am

    Groovy stuff! But no sign of orange in any of the designs! Which is odd, because burnt orange was all the rage in the 1960s and 70s. Any chance you could do a blog about Hornsea pottery from Yorkshire? I love some of their work – not the murky brown stuff, but the pale grey, pale blue and yellow and orange patterns. You used to see stacks of it – and Poole pottery as well – in charity shops here in Oz. (we call them Op Shops!) But now retro is in big demand and it’s all sold on Ebay for big bucks. Perhaps people are yearning for the days when life was simpler and a lot slower! Blimey, I miss the 1970s!!

    • December 16, 2019 6:30 pm

      Thanks Deirdre, it seems like I need to think about a few other potteries to cover for the future. I can’t say I miss the seventies myself but then I do yearn for fifties and sixties and I wast even around ! Go figure lol

  3. December 18, 2019 7:10 pm

    Wow Gill, a great contribution to such an established company. Thank you for getting back to me, I will follow your leads and look them up. Have a lovely Christmas and I bet you enjoyed not having to make that long drive, when you moved on from there lol. Cheers Craig

    • Gill Pemberton permalink
      December 19, 2019 11:38 am

      Left Denby on takeover …saw no design future there ..retained to teach adults, for pleasure ..for the next twenty years I just potter …woodfired kiln in back garden with many potter friends from my years of teaching .

  4. Gill pemberton permalink
    December 19, 2019 11:39 am

    Retrained !!

  5. December 19, 2019 7:24 pm

    Yes, do a piece on Gill Pemberton! Perhaps he would contribute some current photos… the backyard kiln sounds wonderful. For me, pottery ministers to my soul.

    • Gill Pemberton permalink
      December 20, 2019 10:56 am

      I am a SHE ! So many people assume I am male !! It was a bit unusual for a female to do a real job in 1960 !! People think it was all swinging etc …that happened later ..mid 60s..70s !!

  6. December 20, 2019 1:27 pm

    Funnily Gill, I assumed you were female as I know so few gents called Gill, or perhaps Gil.

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