Walker Australia Ovenproof impressed to base
Plain off white ceramic bowl with looped handle. Plain harlequin overglaze to exterior and interior. Good condition for age.
Length (with handle)
Monday, October 12, 2009
The clay soils in the Mitcham area encouraged brick and tile manufacturing and Edgar E Walker began “The Australian Brick, Tile & Tessellated Co” there in 1894. They also established an agency in Sydney in 1894, and in 1895 produced their first glazed ceramic wall tiles. In that year the company was re-formed as the Australian Tessellated Tile Co Ltd, as bricks were no longer an interest and began operations south-west of the Mitcham railway station. His four sons, and later grandson Geoffrey Edgar Walker (b Mar 1917) carried on the company. A sideline of the company was the commercial supply of clay. This was eventually to become their core business, along with glazes.
They survived the depression of the 1890s partly because it cleverly captured a share of the expanding market in sewerage pipes at this period, and it went on to diversify into ceramic mosaic pavements, glazed and coloured enameled wall and hearth tiles, faience, terra cotta work, roofing tiles, ridging finials and terra cotta roof ornaments, urinal stalls and some other sanitary ware, swimming pool gutters, commemorative plaques, majolica tiles, tiles with transfers on them, decorative bathroom tiles, tiles bearing kangaroos and emus, and so on.
The tessellated tiles were supplied to large numbers of churches, sometimes to patterns designed for them by architects such as A A Fritsch. They almost had a monopoly on Government work in Victoria because of the policy of preference to local industry, and to a large degree in New South Wales, despite the development of rivals in Fowlers and Bakewells. Amongst its more distinctive work was the Art Deco tiling of Coles Cafeteria, Bourke Street, Melbourne, and this period, the 1920s, was perhaps its heyday. The floor tiles of the State Library of Victoria were also made by them.
In the 1930s there was an upsurge in the importation of Japanese, English and German tiles, and ceramic tile bodies from Johnsons, Richards and Pilkingtons, but the company gained a respite from the cessation of imports between 1939 and about 1946, due to the war.
Geoffrey had studied ceramics at Stoke Technical College but joined the Air Force in 1941 during World War II and Flight Lieutenant Walker was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in March 1945. Discharged in November 1945, he returned to study after the war and worked in England and the US before returning to the family business after the war. The company never regained the initiative; it went public in 1952, but was subsequently acquired by Rocla pipes, and finally was wound up. Rocla are Australia’s leading manufacturer of concrete pipes.
Geoffrey and wife Constance then established Walker Ceramics in 1955. They built a factory in Wantirna in Victoria. They began with what they call “glazed porcelain functional ware.” That included these ramekins. The following comes from their website.
“then specialized floor tiles, electrical and acid-proof porcelains and salt glazed tiles. Despite a fire which destroyed the factory, the company went on to produce stoneware and porcelain bodies, often to potter's own specifications
During the 1960's, Walker Ceramics manufactured its first filter pressed white earthenware bodies for commercial potteries and art suppliers. During this time, the Walker Ceramics' factory at Wantirna had become not only a place to source an increasing range of ceramic supplies and quality clay bodies and glazes, but a busy and lively meeting place for potters exchanging information.
By the mid 1970's more than 25 bodies were being produced and the market had expanded interstate and to New Zealand. In the 1980's Walker Ceramics in association with Greg Daly, produced the first series of instructional video tapes, detailing many different ceramic techniques presented in Greg's workshops. In 1982 David Walker completed an Honours degree in Ceramic Technology from North Staffordshire Polytechnic in Stoke-on-Trent (UK) and returned to Australia to join the business.
Today they produce and sell in excess of 60 Ceramic bodies , 200 plus glazes , Liquid Opaque Underglazes, Design Colour Concentrates and all the tools and equipment the pottery market requires. As well as their own shop in Canberra the distribution network extends to all major centre's of Australia and Singapore, Indonesia and the United Kingdom - where the pottery community are appreciating the specialist qualities of Australian made and developed ceramic bodies, glazes and colours.
When Walker Ceramics moved to the Wedgwood factory in Croydon in 1988, they completely re-built and enlarged the clay production facility established at Wantirna. A new laboratory was equipped and specialist staff were trained for Research and Development and quality control. This began at the clay pits with testing and stockpiling and continued in the laboratory. All clays are continuously checked in the laboratory for plasticity, colour, shrinkage and porosity by gradient furnace firing and most importantly, the testing of bodies for expansion standards to ensure the matching of glazes.
In 2005 David Walker was approached by John Feeney of Sandisons in Queensland with an offer to continue the Feeney Clay tradition. A new company called Feeneys Clay was started then moved from the Wulkuraka site, completely re-furbished and upgraded and established in a "new" factory at West Ipswich.
The business then went under further changes in 2008 - David Walker decided to continue the Walker tradition in Ceramics and purchased Walker Ceramics outright. A new manufacturing facility was set up for all the Walker White bodies when the business moved from Lusher Rd in Croydon. When the Sales and distribution factory was established in Croydon South the traditional fireclay based bodies were reformulated to be made at the new Feeneys Clay plant in West Ipswich Queensland. This range is now out in the marketplace and already gaining loyal support.
Between 1977 and 1996 Walker Ceramics presented a Walker Ceramic Award annually to Graduating Ceramics students from around Australia. This was exhibited at the prestigious Victorian Arts Centre from December to January each year and enabled the students to have an opportunity to exhibit their talents to a broad range of public from throughout Australia and overseas. The Walker Ceramic Award Collection of all the winners and carefully selected pieces from each years exhibition were on permanent display in the Walker ceramic Gallery in Croydon, Victoria until 2008 when David Walker put the entire collection on Permanent Loan to Manningham Art Gallery in Doncaster. This enables ceramists, students and the public at large to view this wonderful collection in this public space.”