Brown Pots

Brown Pots explores the evolving story of Australian studio pottery from the 1950s to today. Through the work of over 60 artists from the SAM ceramics collection, this first of three exhibitions reveals the influences, experimentation and the community mindset shared by Australian studio potters. 

Bernard Leach was the grandfather of British studio pottery. His teaching, writing and philosophy was a major influence on the development of the Australian studio pottery tradition. Japanese potter, Shoji Hamada, a Master Potter and ‘Living National Treasure’, was as significant an influence. Western audiences have often seen his ceramics through his exchanges with Leach and Leach’s own work.

Milton Moon, Pot (#322), c. 1985, glazed stoneware, Shepparton Art Museum Collection, purchased with the assistance of the Friends of Shepparton Art Museum, 2017. © Damon Moon

Leach and Hamada’s ideas and art were taken up by a generation of potters in Australia after World War II. Community pottery classes inspired collective creativity and stimulated the development of Australian clays, kilns, firing techniques and glazes. Many of the potters in Brown Pots travelled to Europe and East Asia to engage with, and sometimes to subvert, our understanding of the Leach and Hamada studio pottery legacy. As with many 20th century arts and craft movements, the exchange of pottery ideas has flowed in both directions.  
Brown Pots pays homage to SAM’s exhibition history and the way that ceramics are central to our story. The exhibition reviews the important role that women have played in the ceramics landscape over this period. It also recognises the role and significance of many of Australia’s leading Aboriginal artists working in ceramics. In 1991, Shepparton Art Gallery presented an exhibition of 1970s Australian ceramics, titled BROWN. Many of the artists featured in this first brown pots show are in one of our three exhibitions, Brown PotsKaravan and Studio Funk that SAM will present over 18 months.

Marea Gazzard, Torso, 1970, Shepparton Art Museum Collection, purchased, 1972. © the artist’s estate

Artists: Stephen Benwell, Les Blakeborough, Joan Campbell, Michael Cardew, Raymond Cavill, John Dermer, Charles Drew, Ivan Englund, Margaret Frankel, Marea Gazzard, Cecily Gibson, Andrew Halford, James Hall, Sylvia Halpern, Shoji Hamada, Ray Harrison, Harold Hughan, Brendan Huntley, Rupert Jack, Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher James, Jenuarrie, Bernard Leach, Col Levy, Brian Mahoney, Janet Mansfield, Carl McConnell, Phillip McConnell, Susie McMeekin, Harry Memmott, Hilda Merom, Milton Moon, Chester Nealie, Nell, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Alan Peascod, Peter Pilven, Reg Preston, Eddie Puruntatameri, Peter Rushforth, Owen Rye, Bill Samuels, Tom Percy Sanders, Shigeo Shiga, Sergio Sill, Barry Singleton, Jill Symes, Bobby Wunyinmarra

Curators: Rebecca Coates, Artistic Director and CEO and Jessica O’Farrell, Exhibitions Curator




Location: SAM Showcases, Levels 2 & 3