|Designer||Harry and May Davis|
|Maker||Harry and May Davis|
|Marks||Stamped “P” inside “C” to base|
Small wheel thrown clay bowl with pale brown glaze to interior of bowl. Flat circular base and slight indent to rim. Flat knife blade handle rising upwards and fixed to upper third of bowl
|Length (with handle)||115mm|
|Acquisition||Antiques Bazaar Prahran Victoria|
|Rameking Reference Number||HMD 001-00|
Friday, March 9, 2012
Harry & May Davis
The Rameking has just returned from a Royal progress / Grand Tour of the North Island of New Zealand. In the language of the locals, “Choice Bro.” Don't laugh, but Harry first learned throwing pottery from Mr Bean. Enough of the levity. You can find heaps about the Davis' on the Internet, particularly at;
Every so often, someone comes along that is head and shoulders above just about everyone else in their chosen profession or craft. Such a person was Harry Clemens Davis (1907-1986). Not to be confused with the more famous and exceptionally collectable Harry Davis from Royal Worcester, Harry was blessed with seemingly boundless energy, a ferocious intellect and prodigious talent, Harry flew through life like a shooting star, amazing just about everyone who saw him work. These ramekins do not really do justice to him as an example of his work. Made after his return from Africa from clay better suited to brickmaking, they are beautifully hand crafted and are a precursor to the one by Peter Stichbury who later worked with Michael Cardew in Africa that is on display at Te Papa Museum in Wellington. They only have one, the Rameking has this set of four.
Rameking Rule. Don't just collect the man, collect from the man who learned from the master. Old proverb, Nothing is taught, everything is learned. What follows is just a brief outline of the life and work of a couple to whom no brief outline can do justice. I would love to put much more in about them but I will leave it up to you to chase up more.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the standard and quality of production of English pottery was at its height. Into this world came young Harry Clemens Davis, firstly at Poole Pottery, in Dorset originally “Carters Industrial Tile Manufactory”. Poole just outside Bournemouth is relatively near to Harry's birthplace of Glamorgan in Wales. Harry was the son of Harry James Davis, a typewriter salesman and his wife Annie Marie Davis. Jesse Carter, the founder of Poole, Harold and Phoebie Stabler, together with John and Truda Adams began producing the well known popular and highly collectible art deco art pottery there in 1921. The thirties were the heyday of Poole. Into this environment came enthusiastic young Harry Davis. He learned much from Poole, particularly the Stablers who had long experience in most facets of pottery and its decoration. He also worked at the Broadstone Potters, a short lived company (1928-1934) who produced a range called “Joyous”. Harry was a decorator and all round general hand..
After learning quickly, Harry moved on to work with Bernard Leach in 1933 at the Leach Pottery in the Cornish town of St Ives, that still operates today. (Both the pottery and the town). Bernard is considered to be the doyen of studio art pottery, although it is unlikely that he was at the pottery during Harry's time there as Bernard was touring Europe at the time and Harry was running the pottery. It was at the Leach Pottery that Harry met May Scott, a student. They married in 1938 on his returning to England after moving to the Achimota School, where in 1937 Harry had taken a position as Head of the Art School. Founded in 1924 it was formerly Prince of Wales College and still operates in Accra, Ghana.
Harry remained there, separated from May until 1942 when Michael Cardew replaced him as Head of the Art Department. May had moved to Peru and Hary went there briefly until philosophical differences with the group May was with led to their return to Cornwall. It was during Michael's tenure in Africa that Peter Stichbury went to Africa to learn local techniques. When the war finished, Harry and May bought an ancient mill in the Cornish town of Praze an Beeble near Crowan, Cornwall, hence their stamp of the letter “P” inside the letter “C” for Crowan Pottery. Praze is the largest village in the parish.
For the next twenty years they ran the Crowan Pottery succesfully until Harry decided to move to New Zealand. Having survived World War II, Harry was fearful of a nuclear war and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. NZ was that place. Harry, May and their children arrived with fifteen tons of Luggage following by boat. He picked Nelson as the place to be because of its pottery industry and availability of raw materials needed to make pottery. He became a naturalized New Zealander shortly afterwards. They started a new pottery that they called “Crewenna”. St Crewenna's is the Parish Church in Crowan, Cornwall. Just as an aside, Cornwall is full of places names after saints that no-one else has ever heard of. Harry rigged up the waterwheel to generate the electricity needed to operate the pottery. He could turn his hand to just about anything.
Their daughter Nina graduated from Canterbury university and joined them at the pottery in Nelson. Having inherited her fathers inquiring mind, she went to England to work with Ray Finch (1914-2012) at Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire. She also went to South America to work with her parents. After her marriage in 1978, she and new husband moved back to New Zealand where they opened the Nina Davis Pottery at Hira near Nelson.
After a few years, Harry's itchy feet got the better of him and it was off to South America again. This time in 1972 to Izcuchaca in Peru. It was an aid project to set up an industry for the indigenous people in the high Andes. Harry traveled extensively on fund raising lecture tours in Australia and the United States. The project finished in 1979 and both Harry and May returned to Nelson in poor health. Harry died in 1986 and May died in 1995.