Ernest Shufflebotham – the unbeatable All White of Crown Lynn

I am currently working on a fashion exhibition entitled New Zealand in Vogue, the content and layout of which is inspired by Vogue New Zealand, which graced magazine stands between 1957 and 1968.

Vase, 1948 - 1955, Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd (1948–1991), Shufflebotham, Ernest (1908–1984), Auckland. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Vase, 1948 – 1955, Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd (1948–1991), Shufflebotham, Ernest (1908–1984), Auckland. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Each case is inspired by a Vogue headline. One of my favourites is ‘Unbeatable All-Blacks’ – a spread, not of famous black jerseys and the strapping chaps who wore them, but of little black dresses. As a visual flourish, I’ve added my favourite ‘All White’ to the case – this beautiful Ernest Shufflebotham Crown Lynn vase – for white is to the vase as black is the dress.

I became obsessed with Ernest Shufflebotham’s hand-potted wares in the early 1990s after seeing an all-white collection jostling for space on a colleague’s mantelpiece. I was told the designer was Ernie Shufflebottom – the name under which he has been known until very recently. For decades a grave error in transmission or transcription has seen Mr Shufflebotham immortalised in our ceramics histories as Shufflebottom. It was only last year, that his UK-based family made contact with Te Papa, amongst others, to save the family name from further embarassment.

Vase, 1940-1956, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd (1759– ), Murray, Keith (1892–1981), England. Walter C Cook Decorative Arts Collection, Gift of Walter Cook, 1992. Te Papa

Vase, 1940-1956, Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd (1759– ), Murray, Keith (1892–1981), England. Walter C Cook Decorative Arts Collection, Gift of Walter Cook, 1992. Te Papa

Shufflebotham originally worked for Wedgwood in the UK as one of team of a talented throwers and turners who realised the designs of Keith Murray, an ex-patriot New Zealander. Murray was engaged by Wedgwood from 1933 to 1936 to produce ‘new cheap shapes, attractive to modern eyes’ – shapes that have maintained their attractiveness into 21st century, albeit no longer falling into the ‘cheap’ category.

In 1948 Shufflebotham exchanged Wedgwood, England for Crown Lynn, New Zealand. He was one of 15 English craftsmen who were employed by Crown Lynn to extend the company’s capacity in the post-war boom. Although he switched countries and companies, Shufflebotham continued to produce ‘Keith Murray wares’ – that is until David Jenkin, Head of Design, plucked up the courage to ‘suggest that he do something else’. While Shufflebotham continued to make ‘Murray variations’, over time he began to add his own twist to the famous Murray look.

Shufflebotham’s ‘hand-potted’ range was avidly promoted by Crown Lynn as the perfect accessory for flower arranging, stating in their advertising that the ‘most important feature of all flower arrangements is of course, the choice of a suitable containers – and there is absolutely no limit to the size or style of Crown Lynn containers’. In a promotional brochure they urged that Shufflebotham’s ‘moon-white pottery’ provided ample scope for floral arrangements that were ‘always in good taste, particularly where contemporary furnishings play their part in the modern home’. Berin Spiro, Auckland’s most debonair and fashionable florist (and part time fashion compere and charm school director) helped promote the range.

Shufflebotham’s vases not only came to furnish the modern home, but also sadly the graveyard. In his series The consolation of philosophy: Piko nei te matenga, Michael Parekowhai captures the role of Shufflebotham’s moon-white pottery came to play in memorialising the fallen in cemeteries across the country.

Amiens. From the series: The consolation of philosophy: Piko nei te matenga, 2001, Parekowhai, Michael (1968– ), Auckland. Purchased 2005. Te Papa

Amiens. From the series: The consolation of philosophy: Piko nei te matenga, 2001, Parekowhai, Michael (1968– ), Auckland. Purchased 2005. Te Papa

The titles of Michael Parekowhai’s images refer to places in France and Flanders where the Pioneer Maori Battalion made a contribution during World War I.

Bottle - grooved, 2008, Parker, John (1947– ), Auckland. Purchased 2009. Te Papa

Bottle – grooved, 2008, Parker, John (1947– ), Auckland. Purchased 2009. Te Papa

At the City Gallery exhibition Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction, a Shufflebotham vase is displayed alongside a Keith Murray and a piece by contemporary ceramist John Parker. Inspired by the work of Shufflebotham and Murray, Parker announced in 1996 that he was no longer going to work in any other colour than white. That however is another story which is best told in John Parker Ceramics (City Gallery, Wellington, 2002)

For more on Murray and Shufflebotham see Keith Murray in Context by Linda Tyler, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Michael Findlay (Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust, 1996).

PS New Zealand in Vogue opens at Te Papa in late June 2011. 

POSTED IN CONJUNCTION WITH CROWN LYNN: CROCKERY OF DISTINCTION, CITY GALLERY, WELLINGTON

10 Responses

  1. Barry Ramsay

    Can someone please supply the number of the vase shown in the first photograph of this article. thanks. Barry Ramsay (ramsayb@xtra.co.nz)

    Reply
    • Claire Regnault

      The Te Papa accession number for the vase is GH009020. The mark on the base [obscured] reads ‘Crown Lynn NEW ZEALAND HandPotted’and the Number 34 is incised.

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  3. Claire

    Thanks you for your points.

    Reply
  4. Kurt Janson

    Claire – I don’t want to be harsh but if you are going to write blogs for national museum, ask someone who knows about the subject first. Here’s a some more mistakes for you to correct.

    1. The shoulder vase in the illustration was not produced between 1940 and 1956. It was produced between 1933 and c.1950.

    2. Keith Murray worked for Wedgwood between 1932 and 1948

    3. Josiah Wedgwood wasn’t “Josiah Wedwood I” – when his parents named him they didn’t know that he would call his son Josiah Wedgwood.

    Also, please be aware that Linda Tyler’s article (which you have used as background) has a large number of mistakes and comments taken out of context. For example, she says that Keith Murray shapes were cheap yet most of his designs were hand thrown and then lathe turned – a very expensive way of producing vases. You only need to look at Shufflebothams vases for Crown Lynn to realise that this she’s got that wrong.

    Kurt

    Reply
  5. Kurt Janson

    Nice blog – it would benefit however if you learnt how to spell Wedgwood and knew that Wedgwood and Wedgwood and co were two different companies. It comes across as rather amatuerish not knowing simple things like this when blogging for the National Museum.

    Reply
    • Claire Regnault

      A faux pas indeed. Whereas Shufflebotham and Murray worked for Wedgwood, a company established by Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-1795), Wedgwood & Co was operated by Enoch Wedgwood, a distant relative.

  6. Fran

    Very interesting blog – particularly the discussion of Ernest Shufflebotham’s name. Wonderful to know his correct name. Now people will enjoy his work even more, without needing to snigger about unfortunate sounding surnames.

    Reply
  7. Jo

    Awesome blog and enjoyable read.. thank you :) Just one note the Shufflebotham name error was discovered just prior to Feb 2009 when I had a conversation with his son. A birth certificate was published on our site to verify around that time and news then spread around the country. http://www.collectiques.co.nz/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=640&start=10

    Reply
    • Claire Regnault

      Thanks Jo for your reply – great to find out who had that first break through conversation!

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