iron glazed procelain. cat. no. 73
In 1939, Agnete
and her mother left Denmark on holiday to visit her brothers who
had returned to England a few years earlier to work. With the
onset of war, they were unexpectedly exiled in England and Agnete
went to Liverpool to be near her younger brother, Eric, who was
working in the food canning industry. Unable to find suitable
employment there, she decided to join her other brother Svend,
who lived and worked in the heart of the pottery manufacturing
area of Stoke on Trent and look for a pottery based job there.
Taking a portfolio of specially prepared drawings, she approached
Wedgewoods, who were unable to employ her at that time. They kindly
referred her to Gordon Forsyth, the Principal at Burslem School
of Art in the belief that he would have more contacts within the
local industry. Forsyth introduced her to Bullers Ltd. in Milton,
where she was able to secure the position as of head of the studio.
This factory produced very high quality porcelain insulators for
the electricity industry and had historically run a small design
studio, headed by Ann Potts, who had just retired to get married.
One of the directors of Bullers Guy Harris, was an extremely talented
glaze chemist, who had a great interest in Oriental ceramics.
With his support and expert knowledge, Agnete set about consolidating
and expanding this unique industrial studio and began by producing
innovative ideas for ‘oven to tableware’ – something that was
virtually unheard of at that time.
Many of her pots were experimental in nature and with no specific
brief or restraint on her ideas, some beautiful one-off ceramics
were produced, as well as designs for mass production. It was
Bullers intention to sell these wares to Heals in London and so
when there were enough protoypes ready, Agnete herself went to
see the Heals buyers. They liked the pots but immediately asked
her to produce a range of porcelain animal models in similar colours,
explaining that there was a market for such items in the USA.
As the confidence of the directors at Bullers increased she was
allowed to choose assistants for the studio. The first one to
arrive on the recommendation of Gordon Forsyth in 1943 was James
Rushton, 15 years old, who was employed in the first place to
be modeller and caster. Later they were joined by Elsie Forrester
and Hilda Hind, both described as decorators. The team grew to
10 and included Harold Thomas whom Agnete considered to be the
best ‘thrower’ in Stoke on Trent. As soon as the workers had ‘proved’
their ability, she positively encouraged them to develop their
own styles. Over the years Agnete invited influential studio potters
such as Bernard Leach and his son, Michael and Rosemary Wren to
visit. The input of such illustrious visitors added to the general
artistic and intellectual atmosphere within the studio.
Having supported this artistic studio throughout the difficult
war years, the news of Bullers decision to close it in 1952 came
as an unexpected shock to all. The studio workers were given very
little notice and soon after the complete stock was sold off locally
at knock-down prices.
Leslie West (left), Hilda Hine (seated), Elsie Forrester, Agnete
Hoy, Harold Thomas, James Rushton, Derek Wilshaw and Fred Hanley
31cm diameter porcelain with iron cobalt brushwork
cat. no. 11
young deer model (1941)
18.5cm high porcelain with blue celadon glaze
cat. no. 05