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Friday, 11 February 2011

Ceramics Exports to Australia, Canada, Japan – uncovering our trade history

 Photo: Three Colour glaze saucers by Crown Lynn.  Graeme Siddle

Last week I visited the exhibition at the City Gallery in Wellington entitled Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction.   Using examples of the wide range of ceramics produced, it tells the story of the Crown Lynn company from 1929 to 1989.

In the early 1930s New Zealand was an importer of porcelain, chinaware and stoneware products valued at £273, 621 from Britain (Source: The Case for Closer Trade with Britain.  ELIS: 330.993 N545).  However the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company Ltd run by the Clark family in New Lynn, Auckland, took advantage of the new market conditions created by the onset of war and import restrictions, and by 1946 100,000 pieces of china per week were being produced.   The Crown Lynn name which became so well known in this country was launched in 1948.

In 1961 the first case of dinner-ware was exported signalling a move into overseas markets.  In the mid-1960s Crown Lynn attempted unsuccessfully to export to the Japanese market, and investigated establishing a factory there.   Considering the high value that was placed on the ceramic craft in Japan and the high esteem in which artisans such as Shoji Hamada were held, this was an extraordinary move.   In spite of this failure, Crown Lynn’s exports doubled in 1966/67 – the main markets being Australia and Canada.  As a result of these efforts the Trade Promotion Council presented Crown Lynn with an award for outstanding effort in the export field in 1969.

The company even expanded overseas and bought the Royal Grafton factory in Stoke-on-Trent , England and began producing fine bone china.   In 1973 there was a joint venture in the Philippines called Mayon Ceramics.

Most New Zealand households had some Crown Lynn and many still do, even if it is only the cat’s saucer!  Going around this exhibition was like going down memory lane.  What was new was seeing the objects we didn’t recognise as Crown Lynn and learning about the history of a vibrant exporting company.
The lifting of import restrictions in the 1980s and opening of the market to foreign investors effectively removed the policies which protected Crown Lynn since the 1960s. In 1989 the factory closed and was subsequently destroyed by fire.

If you are an exporter, go along to the City Gallery in Wellington and see what this company achieved.   The exhibition is well organised and curated and the booklet (free) is excellent. (Information Source: Crown Lynn: crockery of distinction.  Wellington: City Gallery, 2011 ELIS: in processing)

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