Jason Wood of Adam Partridge Auctioneers and Valuers picks out the ceramic highlights and market trends from the past 18 months and looks forward to a special auction of contemporary work taking place at the British Ceramics Biennial in October
John Ward, square stoneware bottle, sold March 2018, £8,800
Demand for studio ceramics is high. Our twice-yearly Studio Ceramics & Modern Design auctions continue to attract an international audience and feature a broad range of works to suit all tastes and pockets. The sale in March 2018 produced some exceptional results, particularly among what we might call the second generation of studio potters. A John Ward square bottle form decorated with a geometric pattern made the auction’s top price (£8,800). A beautiful large spade vase by John Maltby deservedly broke the auction record for one of his pieces (£6,200). There was also strong bidding for two bowls by Emmanuel Cooper (£3,600 and £2,600), and for important collections of works by Ewen Henderson (top price £3,500) and Gordon Baldwin (top price £2,400). Colin Pearson was also well represented by a collection of winged vessels (top price £2,300). There were excellent results too for works by Ian Godfrey (£1,650), David Roberts (£1,150) and Robin Welch (top price £900).
Selling well above estimate were works by a number of contemporary ceramists too. Highlights included two red copper glazed works by Rupert Spira (£2,550 and £2,450), two naked raku vessels by Ashraf Hanna (£1,200 and £940) and three teapots by Nicholas Homoky (top price £1,000).
HIGH PROFILE COLLECTORS
A number of pieces in the sale were collected over a long period by Beryl Danby, who was inspired and taught by Henry Hammond for several years. Danby started her potting career in 1957 and became good friends with many potters including Richard Batterham, Derek Davis, Eric James Mellon and Peter Beard. She also taught, inspiring others with her passion; even to this day there is a ‘Danby’ glaze at Portsmouth High School. She died in 2016 at the magnificent age of 101.
Growing demand is being met by an increasing supply from what we might call the second generation of collectors, like Danby, who pass away or, like Ruth Fitzpatrick, decide to downsize. Our October 2018 auction ran to two days to accommodate nearly 800 lots of studio ceramics. The first 190 lots came from Fitzpatrick’s extensive collection. Born in 1924, she worked with Elisabeth Zuckerman at the Bluecoat Display Centre gallery in Liverpool from the late 1960s and together they sourced the best studio ceramics from around the country to sell. Fitzpatrick became so immersed in the ceramics world that her own ever-growing personal collection gradually filled the family home on the Wirral.
Zuckerman’s successor Maureen Bampton recalls that, ‘during the 70s and 80s, studio pottery was the main craft medium on sale at the Bluecoat, as it was both Elisabeth’s and Ruth’s driving passion. Collectors would often come and queue up for the major solo shows of the likes of Magdalene Odundo, John Ward and David and John Leach. Inevitably the well-known collector Bill Ismay would be near the front to hand-pick his favourite examples, along with curators from major national collections who wanted the maximum choice for their museums and galleries.’
John Maltby, large stoneware spade vase, sold March 2018, £6,200
Gordon Baldwin, Round a Square III, sold March 2018, £2,400
Much of Fitzpatrick’s collection was acquired at these exhibitions over the 30 years she worked at the Bluecoat, and it was fitting that the current Director, Samantha Rhodes, offered to host a special preview of a significant part of the collection at the Bluecoat ahead of the October auction. The collection exemplified the styles and trends of the final quarter of the 20th century. Among the sale highlights were a porcelain bottle by Lucie Rie (£10,400), five vessels by John Ward (top price £3,000), a monumental vessel by Ruth Duckworth (£2,650), and a globular vessel with angled rim by Betty Blandino (£2,100). The strangest result of the day was the sale of Crowan Pottery coffee and tea sets at ten times their estimates (£920 and £900) – an unlikely auction record, yet bizarrely it was repeated the following day for a mixed lot of Crowan.
On the second day of the October 2018 sale, a Hans Coper flower holder on a splayed base made the auction’s top price (£11,200). Other highlights included an open bowl with a uranium yellow glaze by Lucie Rie (£4,100, despite a hairline crack), five more vessels by John Ward (top price £2,850), a giant garden pot by Monica Young (£2,300), and nine vessels by Ashraf Hanna (top price £1,700).
In March 2019, the sale highlights included an early sgraffito bowl by Lucie Rie (£2,300), a porcelain bowl by Edmund de Waal (£1,800), a collection of seven Peter Hayes sculptures (top price £1,600), and a variety of works by John Maltby (top price £1,400).
Of historical rather than commercial value were two sculptures of reclining female nudes by John Storrs. Storrs was an American modernist sculptor best known for his Art Deco works but also for his earlier representational sculptures like these nudes, which owed much to his time studying in Paris with Rodin. They had an interesting provenance. Descended to Monique Storrs Booz, the artist’s granddaughter, the sculptures were in storage with the family in Winnetka, Illinois. In 1959, they were deliberately broken by the artist’s son-in-law (Monique’s father) and buried, along with other works by Storrs, in the family garden. In 1985, the collection of fragments was recovered following excavation. These two sculptures were gifted by Monique to the vendor in gratitude for helping on the dig. Restored from the fragments, they sold for £380.
John Storrs, stoneware sculptures of reclining female nudes, sold March 2019, £380
Ashraf Hanna, large round raku vessel, sold October 2018, £1,700
BRITISH CERAMICS BIENNIAL
Our next auction on 10 and 11 October 2019, will continue to feature a broad spectrum of works from pioneers of the studio pottery movement to contemporary pieces by some of the current generation of ceramic artists. We are excited to be part of this year’s British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) where the auction commences the evening before the main sale. At the BCB, the auction will feature works by previous AWARD winners and Fresh exhibitors, together with special commissions and works by other ceramists.
Proceeds from the sale will help support the Clay Foundation, the BCB’s charitable arm, with its public engagement programme across the Potteries. A full list of artists represented will be announced during the summer, but already confirmed are Bruce McLean, Stephen Dixon, Neil Brownsword, Peter Jones, Caroline Tattersall, Andrea Walsh and Hannah Tounsend. Adam Partridge is pleased to be given the opportunity to work collaboratively with the BCB team and the individual artists. Hopefully, the auction will become a regular event at BCB in the future.
The next Studio Ceramics & Modern Design sale will be held on 11 October at the Cheshire Saleroom, Macclesfield, preceded by the British Ceramics Biennial auction on the evening of 10 October at the Spode Works China Hall, Stoke-on-Trent; adampartridge.co.uk; britishceramicsbiennial.com.
For more details contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is taken from Ceramic Review issue 299 (September/October 2019). For more, subscribe below.
Hannah Tounsend; photograph by Alice Funge
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