Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The Primrose Pottery Shop
An important link in the chain of the ramekin story in Melbourne Victoria is that of the Primrose Pottery Shop. It was in business from 1929 through to the mid 1970s. Not to be confused with Primrose, a middle period pattern introduced by Roseville Pottery in 1936, the Primrose Pottery Shop was started at 374 Little Collins Street Melbourne by Edith and Betty Mc Millan in 1929. It is a misnomer to only call it a pottery shop as it also exhibited a range of pottery, ceramics, domestic wares, textile and other artistic works.
It was a centre for artists in Melbourne for a long time. Phyllis Dunn (1915-1999 who helped found the Warrandyte Potters Cottage, once said “The first pottery that I had ever seen was in the Primrose Pottery Shop; it was [Allan] Lowe's, and I would press my nose to the window.” Other people were textile artists John Rodrigues, Michael O'Connell and Ailsa Graham, artist Elizabeth Durack and Stacha Halpern. Stacha was also a potter but moved back to Europe in the early 1960s.
The Primrose Pottery Shop was originally upstairs on the fifth floor above the well-known cafe "The Wattle", at 374 Little Collins Street before moving into the ground floor of a building on the corner of Little Collins and Howie Place, (365-367 Little Collins St) behind what was formerly James McEwan and Sons (McEwans) hardware on Little Collins Street. Edith MacMillan also commissioned items to display for sale in her shop. Some of them were domestic wares the potteries produced for her. She could afford to carry their stock where other stores relied on higher turnover. Being supportive of these crafts people, quality was not a primary concern.
As mentioned above, a number of well-known art potters sold their works through the shop. They also provided an outlet for some of the many struggling post-war European migrant potters. Often it was only Primrose, and surprisingly, the upmarket “Georges” store in Melbourne, that sold their output. Sometimes the larger “Myer” store would also sell them, but usually required a higher volume for their stores. It was a familiar sight to see these couples and their sample cases doing the rounds of the many department stores that then existed throughout the city. That is why it is rare to find any of these makers advertised anywhere.