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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.

With the launching of Poole Pottery in 1921, Poole, Dorset, it was decided to make an experiment which has proved highly successful. This was the creation of pottery, both useful and ornamental, in a style which is both contemporary and also in the best traditions of potting.

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.

13 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 !!

  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 ..now 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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