Oral histories sit alongside historic photographs, documents and objects surveying relationships between humans and animals.

COLLECTION: Bendigo Pottery, Koala, 1930s – 40s, hand-painted (Waverly ware). Private collection, courtesy of Bendigo Pottery.

COLLECTION: Bendigo Pottery, Koala, 1930s – 40s, hand-painted (Waverly ware). Private collection, courtesy of Bendigo Pottery.

The current exhibition at the Post Office Gallery is Menagerie: animals in Bendigo history. 

The exhibition showcases a selection of stories about animals in the region’s history.

Oral histories sit alongside historic photographs, documents and objects surveying relationships between humans and animals, observing the animal as a guide, commodity, sustenance, nuisance, entertainment, companion and objet d’art.

Animals are rich creative fodder, both for their aesthetic qualities and symbolic potency. - Simone Bloomfield

Animals are rich creative fodder, both for their aesthetic qualities and symbolic potency.

Early European artists in Australia were initially bewildered by the ‘strangeness’ of native flora and fauna.

In time however native species, often somewhat eclectically combined with European motifs, were emblazoned in precious metals, paint and pottery. Despite this, the imagery and designs of the ‘mother country’ were still favoured.

During its Waverly ware period, flourishing in the 1930s, Bendigo Pottery (est 1858) produced a popular collection of animal figurines including frogs, dogs, swans, kookaburras and koalas.

The variously coloured figurines, as well as brightly embellished tableware and other decorative items of the Waverly ware period, offered an artistic counterpoint to the predominantly utilitarian items (like pipes and tiles), which were most commonly made at the pottery at the time.

Waverly ware animals were slip cast, making them easily mass-produced and affordable thus they became one of the pottery’s most popular lines.

Their production began at the end of the Great Depression during the Art Deco period and continued into the late 1940s.

Production of decorative items slowed during the Second World War as the pottery’s attention was focused on the war effort.

At this time, glazes were almost impossible to procure and as a result several items were painted and do not have the characteristically glossy finish of other items from this period.

Bendigo Pottery animal figurines are now highly collectable.

Join Sally Thomson, co-owner of Bendigo Pottery, tomorrow to learn more about the history of the pottery, with a focus on the animals that have featured.

Morning tea, 10am, at the La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre. Guest speaker event.

The session is presented by the Friends of Bendigo Art Gallery. Hearing loop is available.

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