THE MARTIN BROTHERS

MARTIN BROTHERS

Hi Everybody,

Recently, I viewed an auction that included several pieces of Martin Brothers pottery among the lots on offer. I have been a fan of their ‘Wally Birds’ for a long time, basically because I admire their originality and the fact that there was nothing similar around at the time. They were produced from the 1870s to 1923. The birds are not like any real birds, they are made-up creatures and have been sort of anthropomorphised to give them human characteristics. The heads on the wally birds lift off, so they are decorative ceramic sculptures with a practical use. The brothers also produced other pottery including bowls, vessels, decorated with sea creatures, and ceramic tiles, all fashioned in their own whimsical style.

The pottery was started in 1873 in Fulham, London, and the four brothers were involved in different aspects of running the pottery. The work is mainly stoneware glazed, incorporating the salt ware method, where salt is added to the kiln, which vaporises and fuses with the surface of the clay. This gives the work an interesting orange peel look.

In the auction, the set of three wally birds sold for £30,000 and a spoon warmer in the shape of a grinning grotesque creature sold for £50,000. There was also a vase that had a goat’s mask modelled onto it, which sold for £9500. The Martin Brothers pottery has inspired me to make my own series of limited-edition quirky gargoyle-like sculptures, which I’m planning to have on the website towards the end of this year. If you too are inspired by any of this, look out for our future ceramic sculptor workshops. 

Barry