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The Poole Studio 1962-1966

Part 1   Plates and shallow dishes




Most serious collectors of post war Poole would acknowledge that the early sixties was the most creative era in the history of the Pottery. On a national scale this was an era of massive social change born out of a reaction to wartime austerity, drabness and utility design. Beliefs traditions and stereotypes were challenged as music art and design embraced the optimism of a new generation.


Above - Poole Quay and the Pottery, early 1960's





Robert Jefferson, a former lecturer in ceramics at Stoke-on-Trent College of Art, was appointed designer at Poole Pottery in 1958 and is credited with the development of the Poole Pottery Studio. A designer rather than a thrower, Robert Jefferson worked alongside Guy Sydenham, the manager of the ‘making department’. The use of the latest glazes and experimental techniques (such as wax-resist) 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).




Above - an early and spectcular oval studio plate signed by Robert Jefferson and showing use of wax-resist and an experimental burnt amber aventurine-type glaze - a supersaturated solution comprising metallic oxides and rutile (a natural mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide) which formed crystals as it cooled in the firing process to produce a sparkling effect under bright light.



Above - 10 inch plate by Robert Jefferson, 1962-64.




A vacancy at the Poole Pottery Studio was advertised at the Poole Employment Exchange in 1962 and details were passed to other employment exchanges throughout Britain. In South Wales the vacancy came to the attention of Tony Morris. Newly qualified from Newport School of Art and with no previous ceramic training, Tony was recruited by Robert Jefferson on the strength of his painting.



 Above - Tony Morris study for Carters' tiles.




The influence of Tony's Welsh background can be seen in some of his early pieces. Above - mining town New Tredegar in the Rhymney Valley South Wales. Note the coal wagons in the foreground. The 10 inch plate was painted by Tony Morris shortly after his arrival at Poole in 1963.




Above - a similar view across the valley taken from a contemporary postcard. Elliot Colliery in New Tredegar closed in 1967. At its peak it employed 2,800 people and produced a million tons of coal a year.



Above - full-sized charger (16.5 inches diameter) by Tony Morris taking its influence from the steelworks of South Wales and depicting a crucible and channels of molten steel. The retail price of the charger in 1963 was 12 guineas. Tony's weekly wage was 7 guineas (of which 5 guineas was spent on his lodgings). 


One of Tony's first jobs upon his arrival at Poole was the decoration of 28 faience slabs which were fixed to the Fisherman's Road elevation of the Pottery in 1963.




A few panels were salvaged when the Pottery was demolished.




The shallow dishes shown above were amongst the first pieces produced by Tony following his move to Dorset. Tony recalls that this was a time when there was no pressure on the artist to meet production targets. The left hand dish depicts the crucifixion. The dish on the right was described by Christies as an abstract harbourscape in their 1993 sale but may be interpreted as a head and body within a  key.  The dishes are 11 inches wide and retailed at 4 guineas. The 'Snow White' glaze did not like the sharp edges of the rim and the dishes are prone to glaze misses or 'chittering' in the firing which is sometimes mistaken for damage. [Delphis Production 1964-70, a conversation with Christine Tate, Poole Pottery Collectors Club, Winter 1995] 



Above - unsigned oval studio plates, 1962-64, by Tony Morris



Faces were frequently incorporated into plate designs. Often described as 'sun-gods' many are wrongly attributed to Tony Morris, although Tony probably produced the best examples. The pieces below identified as being Tony's work either bear his monogram or have been acknowledged by Tony to be his own work.




 Above - iconic full sized sun-god charger by Tony Morris, 1963-64. 




Above - unsigned 8 inch plates. 




8 inch  plate by Tony Morris.




Above - detail from a full sized Tony Morris charger, 1964-1966.




14 inch charger by Tony Morris. 




 14 inch charger (unsigned) but probably by Christine Tate.




Above - unsigned 10 inch plate.




Above - 14 inch charger by Tony Morris, 1964-1966. The dominant orange glaze is derived from uranium. The design brings together a number of elements which are associated with Tony's work in the early 1960's - a sun face, horse shoes, a sheep's head, town plans and a pollarded tree.  Further examples of these designs are shown below. 


Pollarding is an ancient means of keeping a tree to its original size by regular hard pruning. This gives rise to new growth, upwards and outwards from the trunk.




Stylised pollarded tree by Tony Morris, 1963-4.




 Above - 8 inch plates by Tony Morris.



Sun face through a pollarded tree. 10 inch plate by Tony Morris.




Above - 14 inch plate with regular and irregular horse-shoe shapes against the background of a pollarded tree 1964-66.



Some abstract designs are defined by their geometric appearance and the use of horse-shoe shapes.



Above - symmetrical tile panel by Tony Morris.




Above - 16 inch Tony Morris charger, 1962-64.




Above -  unsigned 16 inch charger 1964-66. 



Robert Jefferson is quoted as saying "I seem to remember [Tony] was fascinated by sheep. If it was sheep, it was Tony" (1993 Harry Lyons exhibition catalogue). The design below is a stylised version of a sheeps head, the downward stroke of the 'T' representing the sheep's neck and the circle to the left being the eye.



Above -  Uranium orange 14 inch 'sheep's head' design by Tony Morris. The internal decoration is an abstract progression from the detail on the Poole Town Plan which was on display in the Studio at the time.



 Above - 16 inch 'town planning' charger by Tony Morris, 1962-64.




Above - 16 inch charger by Tony Morris, 1962-64.  Some designs with their origins in town planning have evolved into images of planets and outer space.  




Above - 10 inch plate by Tony Morris.




Above - 14 inch charger by Tony Morris, 1962-64




Above - 10 inch plates by Tony Morris




Above - 14 inch charger which depicts the sun setting behind the twin chimneys of Poole Power Station (now demolished) as observed by Tony Morris on his return from a fishing trip out of Poole Harbour.



Above - a spectacular full sized charger (unsigned) but possibly by Christine Tate . This piece was displayed on the wall of the new Craft Section at poole Pottery in 1966 and can be seen in the contemporary photo on page 146 of Hayward and Atterbury.



Above - circus plate by Tony Morris (16 inches). Tony describes this as one of the best plates he has ever made. The plate was sold by Christies in 2001 and features in Robert Prescott-Walker's book, although the image in the book is shown in reverse. 




Above - abstract view of a family, mother and child on the left. 16 inches, by Tony Morris





Above - full sized wall plaque by Tony Morris and, unusually, incorporating Tony's initials as part of the design. The design was inspired by the sculptures of Eduardo Paolozzi who created animal presences ('frogs') in the 1950's by an accumulation of objects and detail including piano parts. The Tony Morris design shows a piano with four legs but the overall effect is that of an animal.






Above - tile panel approx 3 feet long by 18 inches high, painted  by Tony Morris. The view is of Poole Harbour from below Evening Hill.





Above - the Custom House Poole - tile panel by Tony Morris, 1960's





Above and below - Tony Morris tile panels showing the spiny flower heads of the wild teasel.




These tile panels are 'Tony Morris' rather than Poole Pottery pieces. Tony made them in his own time but was permitted to sell them in the Factory shop.




Below - sculpture by Tony Morris, modelled as fish swimming around a column of seaweed and sea anemones. Made from black basalt, this is a substantial piece weighing over twenty pounds and standing just under 16 inches high. It was made between 1964 and 1965 and closely resembles the panels on the main staircase in the former Craft Centre shown below.



The purchaser retained the original receipt. The sale price was forty seven pounds five shillings (45 guineas).









Above and below - faience slabs with marine decoration by Tony Morris. These were part of a group which formerly decorated a staircase at the East Quay Pottery.



When the Pottery was demolished the slabs were preserved. They have now been framed and mounted high on a brick wall above a flight of stairs in the new quayside development.



It is possible to imagine a more friendly environment for these important works of art. At least they have been preserved and are on permanent display.


After 1966


In one sense the Poole Pottery Studio was the victim of its own success. Such was the popularity of the Delphis range both at home and overseas that production was increased and more paintresses were recruited. Robert Jefferson left the Pottery at the end of 1965 and was not replaced by a full time designer. Paintresses were (initially at least) given the freedom to create their own designs.



Above - a rare tile panel by Carol Cutler (early 1970's)


In time, financial rather than artistic considerations took precedence. Early glazes which were sometimes problematic (but which often gave the early pieces their character), were replaced by new glazes. To speed production (and in the interests of consistency and 'uniformity') the number of glazes available was reduced.  By 1971 paintresses were paid according to the number of pieces they produced, with a minimum requirement per day. Freshness, creative design and spontaneity which had been at the heart of the studio philosophy were abandoned as designs were diluted and repeated to satisfy the need for mass production.