|[David Jenkin (1919-2002?), modeller?] for Ambrico Ltd, 'Paris' earthenware bowl, [about 1948]. Based on a British wartime Utility design,|
the bowl was produced using a second-hand press moulding machine imported from England in 1947.
At the beginning of May 2015 Te Toi Uku, the Portage Ceramics Trust, launched a small, entrance-by-appointment 'museum', Te Toi Uku Clayworks, in premises located on land that had previously formed a part of the Ambrico Ltd site. More a display storage facility with a limited on-line access handle than a museum, it's based around a collection formed by the late Richard Quinn (1946-2009) who, following the closure of the pottery in 1989, retrieved a vast array of material from the abandoned works. Although untrained and lacking in any institutional support, Quinn's collecting was of critical significance in terms of a future understanding of when, how and what the factory produced. His work in preserving not only the shards, moulds and other relics of the factory but also its associated documentation was remarkably similar in intent to the actions of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney in the early 1980s to collect and preserve what was left of the productions of the architectural fittings manufacturer, Wunderlich Ltd, at its Redfern factory.
|Opening of Te Toi Uku Clayworks display storage facility in New Lynn, 2 May 2015.|
David Cunliffe MP, Facebook
|A selection of Crown Lynn ceramics on display in the New Lynn Library building, May 2015. Lighting is not optimal|
|Milton Pottery, Press-moulded earthenware ewer decorated with 'Sailing Boats' transfer prints, [about 1880].|
The pottery also made tableware decorated with the English-designed transfer prints.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (CG001651)
Given that it was not subject to competition from overseas manufacturers, brick making was in most instances a profitable industry: both raw materials and labour were relatively cheap and available and while the majority of the country's domestic building stock was of timber construction there was a growing demand for bricks for commercial buildings. During the 1920s a number of Auckland potteries were consolidated by the Clark family into a single concern the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company Ltd (Ambrico) giving them what amounted to a monopoly over brick and pipe production in the Auckland region. The company suffered during the Great Depression with the collapse of the building industry but the election of a Labour party government in 1935 prompted a turnaround in its fortunes. Labour's state housing programme not only launched a massive building spree but it also specified that the 3500 new homes intended to be built annually should be constructed of New Zealand materials. For Ambrico this meant an increase in the production of bricks and pipes and the cash-flow generated by expanded business enabled the company to diversify its output in 1938 into the production of dry-pressed tiles and electrical fittings. Responsibility for the concern was given to Thomas Edwin Clark (1917-2005), the 21 year old son of the managing director.
Ambrico's decision to expand its manufacturing base reflected the intent of legislation introduced into Parliament in 1936 by the new Labour administration. The Industrial Efficiency Act was intended 'to promote the economic welfare of New Zealand by providing for the promotion of new industries in the most economic form and by so regulating the general organisation, development and operation of industries that a greater measure of industrial efficiency will be secured.' Significantly, the Act also enabled government to provide monetary incentives to manufacturers. A further incentive for local manufacture came in 1938 when, due in part to capital flight and a consequent run on New Zealand overseas funds, the government introduced an import licensing scheme that sought to limit excessive imports of commodities whilst encouraging local industry. This remarkable shift in government policy attracted the ire not only of the British manufacturers and government but also local importers and the conservative opposition but it formed a solid foundation for Ambrico's later success.
|Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company, partially vitrified earthenware bowl produced for the United States Joint Purchasing Board|
for use by United States service personnel in New Zealand, [about 1942-44].
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (CG002430)
With a captive, almost competition-free, market and a new, government-subsidised, plant, Ambrico expanded its production to include domestic tablewares, imitating the form, if not the quality of British Utility wares, with their 'reduction of form to a bare ascetic minimum with the total elimination of any colouration', to employ Graham McLaren's evocative description of the type <G McLaren, 'Utility forgot: shaping the future of the British pottery industry 1941-45', in J Attfield, ed. Utility reassessed: the role of ethics in the practice of design (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 157-170, p. 157>. They were not popular with local consumers more comfortable with the gaudier effusions of the British pre-war pottery industry. Moreover there were quality issues with the New Zealand version. Wholesalers complained that Ambrico wares 'had proved so unsatisfactory to handle, that by common consent of all the firm, the Directors and the travellers, we all preferred to do without it.'<G Jackson, in New Zealand Board of Trade, Public tariff inquiry. Tariff items 214 & 215, china ware, etc. Transcript of proceedings (1952). Archives New Zealand, IC/10/ACC W2537>.
|Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd, 'Crown Lynn' earthenware plate, [about 1950]. The central transfer print was sourced in England and the delicate painting of the rim was undertaken by staff recruited in Staffordshire.|
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (CG002482)
|Keith Murray (1892-1981), designer, for Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd, earthenware vase shape no. 3765 (about 1930).|
Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney
|Ernest Shufflebotham (1908-1994) for Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd, earthenware vase (about 1950).|
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, The Walter C Cook Decorative Art Collection, gift of Walter Cook, 1992 (CG001939)
|Paul Champion, Queen Elizabeth II visiting Crown Lynn, 1963.|
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries (1055-1)
Staggered by some of the most basic principles employed [at Crown Lynn], which I cannot for the life of me imagine were put-in in 1947. If they had been put-in in 1897, I should have thought it would have been more reasonable [...] I mean some of this things there – take the casting: tub and bucket. Well it is going back to the days of bows and arrows <R Bloore, in New Zealand Board of Trade, Public tariff inquiry. Tariff items 214 & 215, china ware, etc. Transcript of proceedings (1952). Archives New Zealand, IC/10/ACC W2537>.Worse still, the Labour administration's revaluation of the New Zealand pound in 1948 eliminated what had been a 25 per cent subsidy of the company's exports and the election of a National party administration in 1949 on a promise of ending import licensing seemed set to usher in a collapse of the hard-won domestic market but the company continued to expand. Notwithstanding Clark's claim that labour costs were high 'due to New Zealand's higher standard of living' it transpired that they were half those prevailing in England – largely due to a predominantly female workforce – and could have been lower had production been more efficient. For its first twenty years Crown Lynn seems to have epitomised that quintessentially colonial mentality of 'cobbling things together on the cheap'.
|Sparrow Industrial Pictures Ltd, [Women moulding handles for cups at Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd, (about 1955)].|
Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
Labour's industrial policy ensured Crown Lynn's survival, most notably its strategy of encouraging good design not only in the production of commodities but also in terms of educating retailers and consumers. In its annual report for 1959 the Department of Industries and Commerce asserted that 'In an age when technical skill is of such importance, the function of good design in unifying the qualities of utility, durability, harmony and balance is an important factor in [industrial] development.'<'Report of the Department of Industries and Commerce for the year ending 31 March 1959', AJHR, 4 (1959), H44, p. 19>. This officially-promoted focus on design did more than anything to change not only the appearance of Crown Lynn's products and how they were marketed but also the way the company's management understood that design was more than a concern for appearance but had an impact on every aspect of its activities.
|Barry Woods, [Window display by Allan Smith at the Milne & Choyce department store, Palmerston North, about 1963]. Crown Lynn's changed attitude to design during the 1960s extended to controlling its retail image even in provincial New Zealand|
Palmerston North City Library