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DIANA POTTERY: More Than Just a Name

1960s Diana Australian Pottery Nefertiti Retro Stoneware Sugar Bowl – photo by Etsy, Inc

The Diana Pottery Pty Ltd was established at Marrickville, New South Wales in 1941, and was the most popular Australian ceramics manufacturer between the 1940s and the 1960s.


They are well known for slip-ware, kitchenware, hand-painted pottery and ovenware.


They produced decorative earthenware such as table vases, wall pocket vases, decanters, figurines and a popular variety of tableware known as Nefertiti consisting of serving platters, casserole dishes, and ramekins. These vases and figurines were often decorated with pearly pinks, pastel blues, and yellows, while the Nefertiti range usually come in contrasting mustard, brown, and white colours.


Eric Cornwell Lowe

Eric Cornwell Lowe was born in 1901, in Melbourne, East Brunswick, Victoria to Arthur Horace Lindsay Lowe, (1868-1938) his father, who is a Salesman and later became an Agent and Amy Beatrice Catterall, his mother. Eric moved to Sydney in 1932 and married Vera Louisa Christopher. Arthur and Amy, his parents, upon attaining some success, moved from Brunswick to Moonee Ponds, and then to Caulfield, an affluent Melbourne neighbourhood.


Young Eric was quite passionate with his entrepreneurial ambition as he began to import cut glass and crockery from Czechoslovakia and Germany. On this, he registered a company on the 11th of July 1939 and called it Eric C Lowe Pty Ltd, (which would later be named Diana Pty LTD) “Manufacturers of Utility and Fancy Earthenware”. It was later renamed Diana Pottery PTY LTD in 9141.


The War Business

Fish Shaped Ramekins c1950s – photo by Etsy, Inc.

Soon after the company became incorporated in 1941, Diana Pty began making art pottery. This did not last long as wartime had restrictions that prohibited productions in May 1942. So like many companies established during World War II, the Diana Pottery produced wares that are meant to assist the war efforts, including cups and mugs for Navy and munitions canteens, alongside teapots and milk jugs.


Eric and Vera had Government contracts to produce ceramic wares (creamware mugs, cups, pots, and jugs) for the military. Eric did not join the army like many of his contemporaries. The industries supplying ware to the armed forces were known as “protected industries” and so many of their employees were exempt from compulsorily going in for military service. Most potteries at that time worked mostly for the war, also because of the high demand for Australian and American troops.


There were price control measures during wartime that necessitated Eric to submit financial returns to the Commonwealth government. This put a fixed on the price that could be charged for the output. Thankfully, since these records still exist, it was easy to give detailed accounts of all the business’s itemised accounting for the period of time demanded.


At the end of World War II, the pottery was diversified and commercialised in its output, and a large variety of slip cast vases in diverse colours, shapes and sizes, animal figures, bookends, tableware, utility and kitchenware. Over 200 different shapes and sizes of Pottery were produced.


Expansion and More Creative Artefacts

The Waltzing Matilda Jug – photo by Shapiro Auctioneers | Lot 505

By the early 1950s, Diana Pottery has expanded and hired more than 70 employees. Production increased as well, with a large amount of hand-painted articles produced, which included “Waltzing Matilda” musical mugs and jugs and bright “gumnut” pots with pale green and brown glazes.


The musical mugs and jugs made some musical sounds when lifted. These musical movements were expensive and quite technical to obtain, being imported from Switzerland, so that many mugs and jugs that should have had movements were sold without the movements at reduced prices. In the 1960s, Diana further diversified their range of products into decorated ovens and kitchenware, hand painted with maple, cornflower, poinsettia, wattle, blackberry, and flannel flower designs.


It was also during this period that Diana Pottery made a variety of slip cast vases that were glazed in bright colours, or sprayed with a cream glaze, creating a speckled texture. These were marketed under the name ‘Hollywood’.


In the 1960’s, the company produced a variety of small slip cast vases that were hand-decorated in gold. Those were made for a gift shop in the Imperial Arcade Sydney and were marked with the name ‘Imperial’.


I918N Backstamp on 1940s Australian pottery Eric Lowe, Diana ware vase – photo by SmugMug, Inc.

Diana majorly dominated the Australian pottery industry in the 1960s and 70s. In fact, the most important manufacturer during this period was Diana, as the bright “gumnut” pots with pale green and brown glaze were always in demand.


Diana Pottery marks include a hand-signed “Diana Australia”; “Diana Australia” with a “Huntress” imprinted on it, an impressed “Diana” enclosed in a circle, and stickers printed with “Diana Made in Australia”. There were also those marked under the name “Hollywood” with a stamp and/or a paper label.


Ken Day and Eric C Lowe

V14-8 Embryo Vase 1947-50 by DIANA WARE – photo by Branch 3D

Ken Day started working for Eric C. Lowe in 1939 at the then Eric Pty LTD at Marrickville which was to become Diana Pottery. The small pottery at this stage was largely unnamed and the wares unmarked.


Ken had to go for military training and joined the Australian Army a few months later. He served for three years and when released, came back to Diana Pottery, which was working on some defence contracts with the government for drinking mugs, ware-jugs, and teapots. Ken returned and assumed his role, which included making clay slip, setting kilns, firing, and glazing.


Ken also resumed evening classes at East Sydney Technical College. He became a modeller, mould maker, and designer of the company’s new products. He designed Cornucopia No. 1. for Diana, as well as the Embryo or “beginning of life” series. He also designed the V39 shape, as inspired by the Prince of Wales’ Feathers as were a set of three kingfisher wall ornaments. Ken embossed a utility milk jug with flannel flowers, which was an inspiration that produced a lot of pots with Australian Wildflower motifs at Eric Lowe’s suggestion.


The name “Diana” Pottery

The name Diana Pottery was an inspiration by Jack Christopher’s interest in Greek mythology. It was Ken who, however, suggested that DIANA be embossed into the base of their moulds to identify their work.


The words ‘Diana Australia’ had to be marked in signature style writing of all the company’s products.

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