Collection

Pre Columbian jug

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Ceramics

Date: Circa 1890

Designer: Sir Edmund Elton

Nationality of Designer: British

Manufacturer: Sunflower Pottery

Manufacturers Location: Clevedon Hall, Bristol (UK)

Material: Earthenware, coloured slip

Dimensions: Height 24cm, diameter 22cm

Purchase Price: £34.50

Abstract:

An earthenware coloured bottle with spout

Provenance:

Signed to base
Purchased from eBay

Personal history/nominator:

“I wanted to represent in the Collection the South American Mayan influence on Elton, an influence shared with Christopher Dresser. The use of very basic, crudely formed pottery would have been an unusual reference in the Victorian era. In the official history of art it was not until Picasso referenced African sculpture that the 'primitive' became a cultural influence on the west.

The spout, handle and funnel are characteristic of Elton's more unusual forms, normally reserved for his most expensive crazed metal glazes.

I had in mind when purchasing this damaged example that I would arrange for a Japanese ceramics restorer to repair the piece in the tradition of the repaired tea bowls; the joints are filled using gold adding value and additional random patterning to the piece. In the exact reversal of the western tradition, the restored work becomes more valuable.” Adam Sutherland

Adaptions/renovations:

Badly broken and badly repaired

About the Designer/Maker:

Sir Edmund Elton, 1846 - 1920
The Elton family purchased Clevedon Court in the 18th century passing it around their extended family due to a lack of direct heirs. There were in the family at one time 5 Abraham Eltons, all brothers and numbered 1 - V. Edmund, exceptionally, did produce heirs, but principally devoted himself to pottery and to the voluntary Fire Brigade. He developed, through trial and error, a bizarre, decorative and supremely complicated product, working with his head gardener George Masters. His influences were arts and crafts, the closest equivalent being Dresser’s Linthorpe pottery. However, unlike Morris or Dresser, Elton made these creations with his own hands, at the time, an unusual occupation for a Knight of the Realm (almost obligatory now).

Sunflower Pottery sold principally to the American market through Tiffany, alongside Dresser and his various products. Both must have been an influence on American superstar pottery weirdo George E Ohr.

In common with all quality Victorian and Edwardian eccentrics, Sir Edmund also invented things (especially for people he/they had no understanding of e.g. the poor, foreigners and women). Elton came up with the first forked bicycle brake and a device for keeping ladies’ dresses out of bicycle spokes, typically, he abhorred the bicycle.

About the Manufacturer:

The Sunflower Pottery, so called for Elton’s love of flowers, was set up by Elton at Clevedon Hall in 1879 and continued production, after his death, until 1930 under the guidance of ceramicist William Fishley Holland.

Although the pieces produced at the Pottery appear to be spontaneous and ‘free’, Elton employed a type of transfer method, but even this was painstaking. After a pot was thrown, a design from the Elton ware ‘pattern book’ was transferred onto tracing paper and incised onto the wet pot – it was after this point that their complex, trademark glazes were applied.

Records show Sunflower Pottery was sold through leading arts and craft outlets such as Liberty’s in London and Tiffany's in New York and the Pottery's tiles can be seen in various pieces of architecture throughout the south west of the UK, including the Jubilee Clock Tower in East Clevedon church.

Bibliography & Further information

Linthorpe Pottery.

Clevedon Court

George E Ohr.