A design on its way to becoming history

by Susan Williams-Ellis (6 June 1918 – 26 November 2007), a pottery designer and the eldest daughter of Clough Williams-Ellis,  was best-known for co-founding Portmeirion Pottery.

I love this design – examples of it are quite hard to obtain, now but it is so redolent of its time and – to me – an evocative and mysterious expression of its designer’s understanding of the spirit of a garden.

Artwork of any description is a spiritual event, and I sense that when Susan Williams-Ellis made this design, she was holding a place in her mind and feelings that linked in to the mood and visual taste of the time. Of course, we all do that, some more deliberately than others.

Susan Williams-Ellis had the most amazing background in the village her father created – HERE – and made many contributions to design ( not all of the designs liked by me, personally ) however, this is one I really like. I only have 3 examples of the design and they are becoming expensive as so very >60′s< .

This type of artwork is returning in this Now – a re-exploration of the design sense of the fifties ….. the colours and ways of drawing are once again popular, re-explored in new and interesting ways…..  HERE – Angie Lewin is very representative of this trend, I love the look of her work: its instant distillation of a type of Englishness that would be hard to figure out in words but is right there at a glance. I have done vaguely similar work, was a child in the 50′s, and an art student in the 60′s so I suppose it is easy for me to link in to the style mindset.

It is interesting how an art trend grows from within the culture of a society – the way that it quietly begins to flower in the collective unconsciousness and then bursts out in to the artwork and media of the time.

Portmeirion ceramics were a phenomenon when I was in my early teens and there was a market stall to which my parents went regularly, where they sold Portmeirion seconds. My parents collected the green “Totem” series – all in seconds ! I think they couldn’t believe their luck that the tableware they liked so much was available at a cut price. Spending money unnecessarily was not a family trait. They broke a monumental amount of it, so it was fortunate that it was cheap.

I inherited the unbroken remains and I have been supplementing them recently so I have a set which is large enough for four people to have a meal together using almost all Totem. I’ve not been a person to have everything the out of the same set on the table before and I don’t really see it happening

Anyway – an introduction to Magic Garden – a design that is classic sixties – I know they say if you can remember the sixties you weren’t there: I was and I do

Here’s a link to a site with some interesting studio pottery from that era.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *