An ode to 70s design

Fred Press cheeseboard & Bessemer piecesFred Press, American artist
Lionel Suttie, Australian industrial designer

Fred Press was an American artist, and from 1950 to the 1980s was the chief designer of Rubel & Co on NY’s Fifth Avenue. He set out to revolutionise giftware, bringing his artistic sensibilities to domestic ware. Here we see a cheese/fruit board, in the shape of an apple, with one of his iconic drawings reproduced on the ceramic tile. The tile itself was made in Japan and is set in American teak, and it is signed Fred Press.

Lionel Suttie was an Australian industrial designer, bought in to Bessemer to revolutionise the design of utility ware– butter dishes, sugar bowls and table ware. This was the first time mass produced melamine products were thought worthy of design – or that they could make could make a design statement. In this image- a russet brown lidded condiment bowl, an avocado cup and saucer and a yellow sugar bowl.

Altogether a fine homage to the 70s -and- 70s designers.

This set is for sale: $AUD105

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40s Australiana

Diana vase
made in Australia 1940s

Diana made art pottery out of premises that operated in Marrickville, Sydney from 1940 to 1975. Unlike many other Sydney–based potteries of the time, Diana made only domestic and art pottery, rather than industrial items – capitalising on the huge demand for domestic wares with an ‘Australiana theme’.

This small vase is a double from my collection, so I am reluctantly parting with it. It was also manufactured in classic 50s colours [powder pink, baby blue] and also came in a lustreware glaze. This vase comes from the ‘Australiana’ collection; it is hand-painted in bushland colours; and it also came in a eucalyptus green colour. Because the vases are hand-painted there is quite a variation in the glazed colours: you can just see some green tones creeping into the bark-coloured brown tones.

The vase is in excellent vintage condition, and is for sale: $AU25

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70s fishy platter

Fish platter
made in Japan, 1970s

I don’t collect much from the 70s; – 40s to 60s are more my thang; but this fish platter caught my eye. It’s quite 60s in it’s modelling- but definitely 70s in it’s decoration. The recesses between the fins and the tail make a clever handle; and the arc of the handle is beautifully repeated in miniature to form a little fishy mouth. Superb styling!

I can’t find a makers mark- it just has a ‘made in Japan’ sticker on the back. I expect that these fish platters were exported all around the world in the 70s- everyone has fish, right? I’ve teamed the fish with some 70s Crystal Craft coasters…keeping with the 70s theme.

The fish platter is in excellent vintage condition, and is for sale: $AU35

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Carlton Ware ‘contemporary ware’

Carlton Ware leaf dishes and salt & pepper shakersCarlton Ware ‘Contemporary Ware’ dishes and salt and pepper shakers, made in England 1951-1961

Many people are familiar with the botanically-themed Carlton Ware ceramics [and having a background in horticulture, I am quite ‘familiar’ with them myself.]  Various daisy/foxglove/wild rose motifs were made in the 30s, 40s and continuing into the 50s, but in 1951 a modernist theme emerged.  These leaf-shaped dishes and cubic salt and pepper shakers are an example of this and were dubbed ‘contemporary’ ware.

The four monochrome dishes have a wonderful abstract leaf shape, and so appeal to me. I also like the austerity and the somewhat obtuse cube-shaped shakers. These pieces are now quite hard to come by, and are all in perfect condition.

For sale: $AUD150

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60s goodness

Pyrex 'Sunburst' flask, Bessemer printed plate, 60sBessemer plate, made in Australia 1965-70
Pyrex ‘Sunburst’ flask jug, made in USA 1960s

This is Pyrex at its best- a jug modelled on a laboratory flask with an ‘atomic’ sunburst pattern in gold. The stopper is graduated plastic, in good old yellow plastic. The jug has a pouring lip, two litre capacity and being Pyrex, is good for hot and cold liquids. Pyrex is very collectible – and the jug is in excellent condition. And –it makes a terrific vase when it’s not serving hot and cold liquids.

The Bessemer plate is likewise very collectable. It is one of a series of six, designed by A. Wiederkehr – and is culturalyl important enough to be in the Powerhouse Museum collection. I would have loved to have collected all six- but alas- after so long hunting I have only found this one ‘in the wild’ [as collectors say.] I have found plenty of plates, of all the patterns – but they are invariably so scratched from use that I rejected purchasing.

If you are a Pyrex collector [and there are quite a few!] or a Bessemer collector, please check out the other items on my blog. I am a big fan of early 60s industrial designers – and Pyrex and Bessemer tick all the boxes!

The flask and plate are in excellent vintage condition, and are for sale: $AU45

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Pates table vases

Pates vases, 40s-50sPates vases
made in Sydney, Australia 1946-1958

I have waxed lyrical previously about my love of the ‘Australian’ green and brown hues of Sydney pottery of the post-war period…and here are some more examples from my collection. Pates pottery operated out of Belmore- an industrial suburb of inner-Sydney, from 1946 and only ceased production in 1990.

Here is a selection of Pates vases in brown/green hues; two ‘lotus’ vases and a ‘log’ vase. Like many Pates vases, these shapes came in a variety of colours to suit the late 40s, early 50s décor. I decided my personal collection would be these ‘Australian’ colours [reminiscent of the bushland] – rather than the baby blues and powder pink or pastel yellow tones; but have rather too many to use or display now.

This set of Pates vases is in excellent vintage condition, and is for sale: $AU65

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Airline travel bag

Orbitours travel bag, 1960sAirline travel bag
Made in Hong Kong, 1960s

Airline bags have become SO popular and collectable that there are now reproductions of classic Qantas bags- made in China, c. 2014- being sold for crazy prices on EBay. A REAL Qantas travel bag should cost in the order of $AU100 – but a repro? That should go for ten bucks [that’s 2 bucks for materials & assembly, 1 buck to ship it, and 7 dollars or 70% profit to the seller.] AND it should be clearly marked as a repro.

So- how to tell a fake? Well, take this Orbitour travel bag for example. It has its original sticker inside:

‘Nylon Coated Plastic
Made In Hong Kong”.

Sporting an original sticker, and made in Hong Kong [rather than China]; plus – it has some stitching missing on one handle and a little on the zip. Repros are startlingly perfect, looking like a facsimile of the original. You can’t fake age!

And the colour- that super cobalt blue with slightly wonky white font – it’s correct for the 60s.

I’ve teamed the Orbitours bag with an old 40s school case. It’s had some repair work- new rivets hold a new internal timber frame to the lid, but the locks and hinges and metal handle are all still original and working. It was made by the ‘American Bag Stores, Travelling Goods Specialists’, in Australia [as described on the internal label.] Talk about an original!

The Orbitours bag [Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane] is for sale: $AU55
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The old school case is for sale: $AU45
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Gempo pottery [sold]

Gempo mugs
made in Japan 1962-74

These mugs feature the abstract, large –faced form that marks all Gempo pottery. They are also particular to the 70s; with stylised features, and the stoneware pottery glazed in rustic creams and browns. We’re in the 70s folks!

I have featured Gempo egg cups [a family featuring nan & pop, mum and dad, and children] and a Gempo money box [Leo the Lion] previously. Now we have three mugs – a hippo [spotted]; elephant [with trunk as the handle] and koala [wearing dungarees.]

As the 70s becomes more collectable, so these stoneware pieces are becoming sought after. It was something that I did not predict, but have been caught up in.

The three mugs are in excellent vintage condition and are for sale: $AU45

Johnson OF Australia

Johnson Bros [Aust] dinner plates, 1975Johnson OF Australia dinner plates
made in Queensland, Australia 1975

The back stamp of these 70s plates is Johnson OF Australia – [reminds me of Lawrence OF Arabia!] Johnson Bros [Australia] produced transfer printed stoneware crockery marketed as “tough, utilitarian ware” – which is why these plates are looking so fresh and unblemished today.

Johnson Bros [Australia] was a division of Johnson Brothers England- at the time one of the largest domestic pottery producers in the world. This design wasn’t given a name or a pattern number, but the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has a record of the design: it is described as a “complex radial design with central sunflower”. The plate was collected and added to the Powerhouse collection by a Melbourne artist John Hind.

I have recently started to embrace the 70s – and Australiana from the 70s; and now I have an Instagram account, I have been seeing much 70s Australiana – and Johnson’s plates are much celebrated. There is one fantastic site where Johnson pieces are cut and sanded to make upcycled jewellery: rings and necklaces. It’s a lovely celebration of 70s iconography and the ‘tough, utilitarian ware’ that the Johnson Bros never imagined.

These two dinner plates are for sale: $AU40

Arabia ‘Ruska’ [sold]

Arabia Ruska, 1970sArabia ‘Ruska’ crockery
made in Finland, 1970s

Arabia is uber collectable right now. Here we have a Arabia Ruska [Ruska = ‘autumn colours’] eight piece crockery set comprising large and side plates, and cup & saucers.

In the 70s every design studio was rebelling against the pastel/chrome/psychedelic colours of the 50s and 60s. The 70s was all about form, integrity, simplicity, and honesty. And brown. Brown featured a lot. Brown was both the colour of most base materials [think clay, timber, brick] and the basic tertiary colour that didn’t draw attention to itself. It was all about form – not colour.

Arabia Ruska is a collection of kitchenalia that celebrates autumnal colours- no two handpainted pieces are the exact same brown. It was made pre-dishwashers, so it has to be hand washed or the Arabia backstamp is liable to be erased.

Featured in an earlier post is a matching Arabia Ruska casserole dish: if you require this can also be purchased. The eight piece setting comprising thirty-two pieces is for sale: $AUD200