Afternoon tea on a veranda overlooking the Swan River was one of the pleasures of life in Perth in the 1920s. This 21-piece tea service, perfectly evoking the period and locale, was made by the Calyx Pottery in Western Australia and is one of its most accomplished products. Its decoration was designed by Western Australian artist Archibald Bertram Webb (1887–1944), showing his interest in the pattern and spatial organisation of Japanese woodcuts as applied to the form of functional ceramics. The pattern on this set incorporates a kookaburra and bush and tree forms of the local Swan River area that characterised Webb’s work as a watercolourist and printmaker. He had trained at St Martin’s School of Art in London and worked as a freelance commercial artist and illustrator before immigrating to Western Australia in 1915. In Perth, he worked as a commercial artist and taught art at the University of Western Australia and Perth Technical College, where he succeeded James WR Linton as its head in 1932.
The Calyx Pottery was established in Perth, Western Australia, in 1921 to manufacture high-quality white earthenware and porcelain for commercial use. Becoming the only large producer of such ware in Australia, it engaged the services of prominent local artists to design shapes and surface decoration for sets of tableware. However, the company had a short-lived independence and was incorporated into the Brisbane and Wunderlich company in the mid 1920s.
The acquisition of this example of Australian ceramic design extends the Gallery’s representation of applied art from the 1920s. As an early work by a key Western Australian artist it shows how regional motifs and design themes were central to the emergence of a strong local ceramic industry.
Dr Robert Bell AM, senior curator, Decorative Arts and Design
in artonview, issue 65, autumn 2011
in artonview, issue 65, autumn 2010