JUNE 2008   The Martinware Collection at the Norwich Museum




A - Z

The Martin Brothers
The Martin Brothers - Walter on the wheel, Robert Wallace creating a Wally Bird and Edwin decorating a vase.
I have been an admirer of Martinware ever since I saw my first Martin Brother's Wally Bird on the Antiques Roadshow when I was a child.  Later I was fascinated  by the style and imagery of the pieces and was amazed to discover that they were made over one hundred years ago.  The four Martin brothers created their unique and mysterious range from 1873 until 1923, mostly from their Southhall studio in London.  Robert Wallace designed the bizarre bird shaped tobacco pots, whilst Walter worked on the wheel and Edwin decorated pieces with fish and bird motifs. The forth brother Charles was responsible for the running of the shop.  There is something of the Alice in Wonderland about the work; in parts childlike and ancient, contrary and whimsical.

Martinware 1  Martinware 2  Martinware 3
Martinware Bird Heads

Martinware Teapot 4
Rare Martinware Teapot
Over the years some of our customers have compared our designs favourably with the work of these four brothers; especially my "Murder of Crows" series and the Dodo and Eurasian Black Vulture.  Like Robert Wallace Martin I was also drawn to the expressive humanistic elements of bird and animal behaviour and I consciously developed these anthropomorphous traits in my "Deeds of Chase" series of mini sculptures.
This quaint phrase describes the terminology given to a collective group of creatures; for example, a charm of finches, a tower of giraffes and congregation of eagles.
I have interpreted the following collective nouns in clay:-
Brooding black crows with a flash of midnight blue and rich brown glaze on the eyes and wings.  There is a suggestive hint of raised cloak collar on the bird's neck and a trace of waistcoat or jacket on the body.
A series of three tawny owl chicks with different faces and spiky feathers on the top of their heads to imitate the hair style of the youths of today.
Three rats with hats that portray an element of their on screen persona; Dean Martin Rat with a top hat, Frank Sinatra Rat with a fedora and Sammy Davis Jr Rat with a soft cap.

Martinware Sketch 5   Martinware Sketch 6

Robert Wallace Martin sketches for the Wally Birds
Martinware Zoo Ceramics 1    Martinware Zoo Ceramics 2     Martinware Zoo Ceramics 3
The Murder of Crows Series by Tracy Wright
Martinware Zoo Ceramics 4

Martinware Zoo Ceramics 5     Martinware Zoo Ceramics 6     Martinware Zoo Ceramics 7
Dodo, Rat Pack and Eurasian Black Vulture by Tracy Wright
Earlier this year we received an invite by Amy Bracey, the Curator at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, to come and view their collection of Martinware.  It was a privilege to study the pieces first hand and to examine the glazes and design work in minute detail.
Martinware 7   Martinware 8   Martinware 9
The figurative pieces had some amazing expressions on their faces and the vases were decorated with a plethora of animal and insect life.  My favourite was a little vase pictured below on the right, which contained four tiny turtles standing upright, with their feet touching at the top and bottom.  These pieces seem so contemporary and inventive by today's standards, that I still find it hard to believe they were made in the Victorian age.

Martinware 10    Martinware 11   Martinware 12
Martinware Vases
Amy was a wonderful guide and later gave us a grand tour of the ceramic storage area, that housed a myriad of pottery gems from around thae globe.  We also visited the main gallery and museum area, which was well worth a visit; especially the toilets.  They contained some amazing print designs on the basins and toilet bowls.
Martinware 13     Martinware 14   
Norwich Museum 1   Norwich Museum Amy Bracey 2   Norwich Museum 3
Amy Bracey and the Norwich Museum Collection
Norwich Museum 4   Norwich Museum 5   Norwich Museum 6
Maggie and I would like to express our thanks to Amy for a giving us so much of her time and gathering together all the brilliant Martinware for us the examine.  Incidently there was one piece we were quite relieved that we could not handle and that was the unusual teapot shown at the top of the page; there are reported to be only two in existence, so this one was valued at over a quarter of a million pounds.
Norwich Museum 7     Norwich Museum 8     Norwich Museum 9

Norwich Museum 10
To arrange your own study day at the Norwich Castle Study Centre:-
Telephone:   01603 493625 (Mon-Fri 9am - 5pm)
By Tracy Wright 18th June 2008