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Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich Pottery history

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Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich Pottery history

Post  Ev on Thu 20 Oct - 21:05

Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich Pottery History.

All information courtesy of the Radonich family.
Joseph Radonich was born in 1899 in Yugoslavia and came to New Zealand when he was 12 years old and worked in the gum fields around Dargaville.

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In 1932 Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich purchased a property on the corner of Margan Ave and Titirangi Road,  New Lynn, which had a house and a shop on it.  The local clay was well suited to make field tiles and drainpipes and there was a demand for these.  They may have salt glazed these as there is a memory of Italian salt glaze that was used at the pottery.
However it didn't take long until the Clark Pottery hierarchy realised what they were doing and when Clark Pottery imported a machine that extruded drain pipes they could not compete with them  They also had the gall to ask Joseph to work for them and show them what consistency was required and to look after things, Joseph turned them down, but it didn't take them long to monopolise the tile supply business.

Jovan had experience making pottery and they decided to make artwork vases and jugs.  The Radonich family have the first jug that Joseph made

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and it has on the base
MADE IN NEW LYNN
TITIRANGI RD
J.R & Co (This was the common initials for both)
N.Z.  
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The jug has been made by hand using quite thick slabs of clay.  The true lovely green glaze is best seen on the base photo.  This jug is solid and well made and has survived for decades even after being used to keep fish hooks in for many years.

The local clay wasn’t suitable for the artwork so they used clay that came to New Lynn by train from down South and was picked up from the station by horse and cart.  Perhaps from somewhere around Huntly, like Glen Afton I would suggest.

The country was still in the grips of the Depression and the potters struggled and they even tried making mugs, sugar bowls and utility ware for a while, but this didn’t sell very well.  By 1935 Joseph had found work in New Lynn as a Fish Dealer.  Vera Rancich would turn up monthly to pay Joseph rent for the property and sometimes would pay in pots that Jovan had made.  
Jovan passed away in 1942, but Vera continued to run the pottery with Wallis Silva working with her.  This continued until 1944 when there was a fire that burnt the pottery workshop to the ground and destroyed the kiln.

There was a huge disagreement between Vera and Joseph regarding the fire, because after Jovan had died there was no insurance paid for the property.  The land was subdivided and finally sold in 1946 and Vera Rancich and her daughters moved to Canada and took Jovan’s ashes with them and he is at Mt Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Canada.  It is interesting to note that on the Deeds of Sale of the property Joseph calls himself a Pottery Maker even in 1946.


The pots made during this very early time of New Zealand’s studio pottery history by these two potters are now extremely hard to find and are very collectable.  They show a real European influence with the shapes having handles flowing off the tops of vases and also the addition of extra spouts, which you don’t see in any other early pottery made in NZ.  

The glazes are vibrant and colourful and must contain lead for them to be like this.  The inside of the jugs are very muted and I would say that they would be free from lead.   Most of the pots made have been glazed all over and have been fired on stilts, but there is also the odd piece where the base is free of glaze.  


When the Lions Club were erecting a monument to our potters and brickmakers at New Lynn, they asked Joseph Radonich to be included, but he refused as the memory of the distasteful disagreement was something he wanted to forget and he has largely gone unnoticed and forgotten, except for his family and friends and I hope that this story will rectify this and place him back where he belongs in New Zealand’s pottery history.




Photos courtesy of the Radonich Family collection:



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Last edited by Ev on Thu 10 Nov - 9:15; edited 2 times in total
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Ev
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Re: Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich Pottery history

Post  teaandcoffee on Fri 21 Oct - 0:23

Great history Ev. This fleshes out the story well, adding some unexpected details. The photos are a nice bonus. :clap:

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Re: Joseph Radonich and Jovan Rancich Pottery history

Post  Maryr on Fri 21 Oct - 6:59

Ev thank you for this. It is very important information and the pics are wonderful.
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