Carlton Ware Collection I first became interested in collecting old china when I was transferred in my job from Sydney, Australia to Wellington, New Zealand in 1992. After the first few months my children returned to Australia to undertake their secondary schooling there and my weekends seemed rather long and empty. I began scouting around antique shops and was amused by the plates I saw shaped like a lettuce leaf and with a tomato sitting on them. I began to acquire and use them for salad presentation and became interested to know more about the maker.
Then in February 1993 my mother and I attended the Annual Napier Art Deco Weekend at which there was an exhibition curated by the Hawkes Bay Museum of Carlton Ware in the Deco Age. This was my first exposure to the diversity and complexity of the Carlton Ware range. It was also the opportunity to meet Jules Smith and Pita Gregory and to join their new club for collectors.
At the weekend as guest speakers were Helen and Keith Martin who later took over the Club when Pitas health took a downward turn.
From that interesting weekend developed a lively interest in a wider range of Carlton Ware than just the tomato pattern and seven years later I now have over 300 pieces.
As my job has required quite a lot of travel I have been able to search around many different areas in Australia and New Zealand for pieces. I have attended auctions occasionally; for example, while I was on holiday in Adelaide in January 1999 I bought all the Carlton Ware offered at a large auction of several deceased estates. Not all those pieces were fabulous but the prices were very reasonable which has now become a factor with the increase in the retail prices of good quality Carlton Ware. Always when I am on holiday I do some hunting for Carlton Ware, but sometimes it is only to look. For example last year I visited England and was shocked at the high prices there so did not buy anything.
However my hunting did lead me to meet Francis Joseph, author of the first book on Carlton Ware and I had an interesting chat to him about collecting.
I always ask about the history if it is known and have picked up several pieces which originally have been wedding gifts and which have never been out of someones china cabinet. I do have some pieces in their original box or with the sale sticker still on them.
I have tried to restrict my collecting to a few main patterns that I like but I keep finding pieces I cant resist. I love the thrill of finding something unexpectedly; perhaps that has just come into the store. For a while one dealer used to offer me pieces especially of buttercup before putting any I didnt want into her store and this helped me set up a strong buttercup collection. But it is getting harder and harder to find as more collectors develop an interest in Carlton Ware and compete for the pieces available.
I have kept a record of when and where I bought pieces and how much they cost, although with a few gaps where I didnt write it down at the time thinking I would remember!
I have pieces purchased from the following locations: Sydney, Melbourne, country Victoria, Perth, Wellington, Christchurch (one particular store always seems to have treasures when I am visiting and it is only a five minute walk from the Parkroyal Hotel where I stay such temptation), Dunedin, Auckland and several country towns in New Zealand.
The patterns I have specialised in include:
I recently bought a beautiful handcraft clematis on blue background jug from Victor Harbour.
I belong to a casual club for collectors, based in Traralgon in country Victoria. We meet at antique fairs where we browse and try to beat the dealers prices down and also for social get togethers from time to time. At these we bring along something we have recently bought to share information. None of us can match the collection of Margot Whelan who had a legendary collection acquired over a twenty-year period. She is very generous with her knowledge and a great help to all.
The manufacture of Carlton Ware began in 1890 at Stoke-on-Trent, England by a company called Wiltshaw and Robinson. Production finally ceased completely in 1989, although the ownership of the company changed significantly in that time.
Carlton Ware was exported throughout the British Commonwealth and it is interesting to see where different styles were most fashionable. I have noticed that New Zealand has a lot of tomato ware that I havent seen elsewhere and that Melbourne has masses of Rouge Royale compared with other places.
Carlton Ware produced one of the most diverse ranges of pottery ranging from exquisite highly decorated lustre ware to advertising material and whimsical designs of great humour. Collecting Carlton Ware offers the opportunity to specialise in a particular style that takes your fancy or to collect from the diversity to show the great variety of styles and qualities. There is truly something for everyone in their range.
Truly dedicated collectors prize the unusual and seek perfect pieces. The Carlton Ware Collectors Club offers the opportunity to increase ones knowledge and to participate in events, for example, when the Martins travel to various countries.
I have had a great deal of enjoyment from building my collection. Now I dont have the display space for all of it and I have other priorities to deal with so I am not an active collector at the moment. But I can not resist that special or unusual piece to add to the particular favourite patterns.
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