Teal Ceramics - A History (work in progress)

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Post  Jeremy Ashford on Thu 3 Jul - 1:22

I have talked to Keith Sandford a couple of times on the phone and I spent a couple of hours with him on Tuesday. I am a slow writer so while this is fresh in my mind I will make a start at writing it down. At some stage I will check back with Keith to see that I am getting it right but for now I think it's best to get something on the forum. This is a work in progress and as such will be subject to additions and edits. I have done no research beyond our conversations. Keith does not recall any important dates. These may be added at some time from documents, or when Mrs Sandford is available. Questions may be helpful to prompt me, as there is a lot not here yet.

When Barry Teal took on a management position at McSkimming industries he called on his friend and former employee Keith Sandford to join him there working as quality controller. There were issues arising from the conversion from earthenware to vitrified china. One such was the tendency for the toilet pans to peel at the corners as they dried for firing which resulted in a defective final product. Despite a lack of previous experience in the ceramics industry, Keith made the unforgivable mistake of taking a hands-on approach to solve the problem by tweaking the moulds. First one, as a trial, which proved successful, then a second to confirm, after which he confessed to Barry what he had done. Barry supported him but the Australian designers were irate. From the importance Keith placed on this situation I conclude that it was at least in part what led to Barry and Keith being laid off during a round of redundancies.
Barry led Keith and four other investors to set up Teal Ceramics. Keith was not able to recall their names but described them as a chemical engineer, a ceramics specialist, someone from management, and a farmer. Although Teal was his own name, the name Teal Ceramics belonged to someone else and Barry had to buy it at some cost.
They set up in an old hotel in Balclutha, with a workshop staff of seven including Keith, Ken Doidge, who joined them from McSkimmings, and five local women. Keith said that Ken had a design qualification, perhaps even a Diploma or Bachelor of Fine Arts. Keith and a Ken both designed the Teal wares, and each had their own style. Keith described Ken's work as "artistic" and "European", whereas his own style was more straightforward. Teal wares with vermiculated (103 canister) and Greek Key (small casserole in the gallery) patterns were Ken's work, as likely also was anything with a pointy ear-shaped handle. Keith's decorative style rarely amounted to anything more than a pair of rings around the perimeter of casseroles etc.
All Teal wares were cast vitrified china fired once only at 1200C. The clay was imported from England as powder and mixed in the factory. The glazes were spayed on to their own design, and sometimes transfers were added. Within New Zealand Teal Ceramics sold mostly in the South Island. The main overseas market was the Myers chain in Australia, where Teal displaced Temuka.

I've just copied off some dates from the Otago Daily times article on McSkimming's in the hope that I can reconcile these with what Keith has told me and dates elsewhere in the forum for Teal. It doesn't seem to add up so I will have to have a good long look at it.

1864 John Nelson opens Benhar Coal Company.
1882 Peter McSkimming and son employed at Benhar Pottery.
1894 McSkimming family takes over Benhar Pottery.
1907 Parker McKinlay goes on first UK trip.
1922 Parker McKinlay studies at Stoke-on-Trent.
1922-25 Thomas Lovatt develops domestic ware.
1980 Ceramco takes over McSkimming.
1987 James Hardy (Fowlers) takes over business.
1990 Factory is destroyed by fire and relocated to Auckland, then Australia.

Keith referred to Australian owners of McS's (presumably James Hardy) yet at the time I presumed he worked there it appears to have been owned by Ceramco. Keith also referred to a takeover by "Taihape investors" at some time but there is no mention of this in the ODT.

I'm going to be in Queenstown the week starting July 13th. I may just feel like going for a drive to Benhar/Balclutha but from what I've been reading there is not much left to see.

Last edited by Jeremy Ashford on Fri 4 Jul - 10:29; edited 2 times in total
Jeremy Ashford
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Post  Maryr on Thu 3 Jul - 8:09

Brilliant to see this Jeremy

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Post  Ev on Thu 3 Jul - 8:14

Excellent details Jeremy and what a story too !!

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Post  Jeremy Ashford on Mon 18 Aug - 15:24

New Zealand by Design, Michael Smythe, Godwit, 2011
Pottery in New Zealand, Gail Henry, Reed, 1999

I have got my dates confused from relying on official companies documentation and now see that the whole Teal story occurred five years or more earlier than I thought.

On page 249, in his discussion of the Lairds, Michael says Richmond Pottery was bought by Teal in 1983 and closed a year later. I would not be at all surprised that this overreaching by Teal contributed to Teal's own demise, however from the dates below we see that Teal endured for another three years.

Gail's second edition adds little to what is available on Teal in the first. Gail's dates, accompanying the Teal marks on page 159 of the first edition, give an initial impressed mark dated July 78 to late 79, Keith's pregnant duck stamp from Nov 79 to Mar 81, Ken's revamp (of Keith's stamp) from 81 to Jan 83, and a revision of Ken's mark from Jan 83 to "present" (1985). In the second edition, page 240, the period for the final stamp is updated to read "January 1983-c.1987 closure".

So based on these sources we are looking at Teal operating from 1978 to c1987, with ownership of Richmond Pottery from 1983 to 1984.

There are no index entries for Waimea, Richmond or Teal in Gail's book.

Michael discusses Jack and Peggy Laird (pp246-249), with mention of Waimea, Richmond, and Temuka, and references to Teal, Craft Habitat, and McSkimming in that discussion.
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