Modern or contemporary pottery

Modern or contemporary pottery as far as ‘Torquay Pottery’ is concerned, mainly relates to some of the changes from the traditional shapes and designs that occurred after the end of the war, say from 1945 to 2000 although designs were copied earlier from the work of Clariss Cliff, Susie Cooper, Trudie Carter and others by many of the South Devon potteries in the 1930s and possible even earlier.

Of the Torquay and South Devon potteries only Watcombe was able to keep going during the war, others that had closed down did not reopen. The Longpark, Devon Tors and Royal Torquay potteries were able to reopened although there were initially restrictions on the use of colour pigments used for decorating, colouring slip or adding to glaze, unless the pottery being made was for export. These export products were needed to bring in foreign currency and so help the weak post war economy. If quotas were met it was then allowed for a small amount of coloured pottery to be produced for sale in the UK.

During the Festival of Britain in 1951 the Festival Pattern Group promoted patterns influenced by crystal structures that led on to abstract and geometric patterns becoming popular. Further the popular trend of the early to mid 1950’s was for bright colours and stylised images, using flat areas of pastel colours with bright contrasting patterns and fluid shapes. Eventually, as the older Torquay potteries still did well on tradition souvenir wares, this influence some designs produced at the new potteries at Dartmouth, Babbacombe, Paignton, Brixham and elsewhere in Devon from the 1950s and 1960s. The mainstream pottery of Watcombe also produced a few of these interesting modern designs although they or not often found. More scarce is the work of the little known N.F.Carter or Wellswood Studio Pottery.

With many colonial powers around the world seeking to gain independence the was a renewed interest in the culture and art of foreign places so designs and shapes even reflected this to a degree. The Dartmouth Pottery that opened in 1949 produced two lamp bases that reflected this interest also the other new potteries of Babbacombe and Priddoe’s did some unique designs that were influenced by native arts.

The need to stay competitive also encouraged the need for simpler and easier hand decorating designs by less skilled decorators. This led to the increased use of slip moulded shapes for vases, planters and bowls often finished in wax resist or random pastel colours as well as applied transfer decoration.

The changing life styles with families sitting around a living room eating meals while watching television encouraged new shapes of wares like the TV meal plate based on a large plate with compartments for food and a saucer like recess to hold a cup while eating and watching the TV. This was based on a similar design known as a ‘tennis set’, being an extended plate to include a recess to hold a cup enabling eating and drinking while watching tennis at Wimbledon or similar outdoor events.

The Watcombe, Devon Tors and Devonshire Potteries Ltd, did revived their polka dot wares as well as doing small amounts of contemporary patterns.  Dartmouth, Babbacombe and Sandygate  took up the polka dot design although  this was mostly a single colour dots over a background colour. 

The Babbacombe Pottery while continuing traditional Torquay wares like cottages, seagulls, also produced from 1956 to 1960 was a unique range of patterns and numbered shapes. This was in addition to ten or so simple geometric Deirdre Wood designs decorated on the thrown terracotta pot body and known within the pottery as the Aztec designs. These were used by the other workers decorate and they were fired with a semi matt glaze. Deirdre did her much more complex and fine unique patterns usually on uniquely shaped hand thrown pots which are now highly sought after.

The Dartmouth Pottery after start up concentrated very must on traditional souvenir wares, they did however take up the polka dot design and also did a version with different coloured dots together and this is not often seen. Some individual contemporary items have been seen decorated by Peter Priddoe who was there between 1949-54. Later a great deal of moulded vases and planters designed by Leo Lewis where produced for the trend of the time of flower arranging. 

Priddoe’s Studio Art Pottery started by Peter and Mary Priddoe at Goodrington, Paignton in 1954 had a series of large native figures decorating the workshop walls. There they mostly produced pottery with very strong simple patterns and shapes in contrasting colours where it would seem every pot was uniquely decorated before being high fired with a semi matt glaze.

Research by KP