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Linnware

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Also called Linn ware.

In February 1943 Rowland Cullinan persuaded Con-Rand to buy the Ceramic Studio and retained Joan Methley on a three year contract. A number of artists remained to produce "artistic pottery"; the majority of works were standardised tableware. Ironically it was the "artistic" section which showed a profit. Short was not prepared to work in a "factory" and many commentaries state, uncompromisingly, their preference for Ceramic Studio wares. Some decorative pots were produced but there being a war on, no decorative work was done for architects.

Many of the Linnware glazes were developed locally by the Works' chemists and over the course of time the glazes at Linn Ware improved greatly. By 1940 onwards there were a great many people now in opposition to Linn Ware - decorated jars - tiles etc were being done all over the country.

Despite large orders from the S.A. Railways the production ware consistently ran at a loss. There appears to be some uncertainty about the time when Linnware closed.

Heymans gives 1955 as the date of closure and 1952 as Joan Methley's last year with Linnware. However, Thelma Newlands-Currie had in her possession a letter of recommendation from Joan Methley, "Studio Manager", dated 15 June 1953. Nilant states that Linnware closed down in June 1962, shortly after he had completed his research, and Patrick Cullinan, the last manager of the works, states that the pottery studio closed in early 1954.

What Linnware art pottery lacks in formal originality is more than compensated for in its consistently well-made tableware. Utilitarian vessels must be judged according to their functionality and Linnware dinner services and other sets are remarkably well-designed and fit for their purpose. Like all good "decorative" pots they enhance the food or flowers that they might contain and the rooms in which they are placed.

One can only speculate on the fate of Linnware had it been permitted to continue. Would it have lapsed into a dreary repetition of old formulae? Would the crafts boom of the 1970s have accepted the bright colours and decorative painting? One thing is certain - when the women departed aesthetic creativity at Olifantsfontein died.

[Extracted, edited and expanded from Dr Melanie Hillebrand. 1991. The Woman of Olifantsfontein – South African Studio Ceramics. Cape Town: South African National Gallery.]

Artists who worked for Linnware:
A Gunn
Audrey Frank
Rhoda Baber
Ruth Baber
I Reich