Antiques Column: Sleek styles and matt glaze designs

Because we have so many grandchildren, it appears we need to redesign our kitchen.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 6:00 am
Wedgwood.

At first I was happy with this plan, as I assumed it would mean, perhaps, a different table, (which I never liked), some extra chairs and if things became really extravagant, a new coat of more durable paint. Oh how wrong was I; we are having a new kitchen and the redesign is to be done by an architect trained kitchen designer.

Keith Murray was an architect, I wonder if he ever designed any kitchens. He was born in New Zealand. His father was Scottish and had travelled to New Zealand to meet his mother Lillian. The family came to England when Keith was 14 and seven years later he graduated from the London School of Architecture.

Originally work was slow, so Murray began illustrating for magazines. In the early 1930s he designed for Stevens and Williams and his designs were noticed by Wedgwood. Wedgwood were at that time recruiting designers to inspire their production and revitalise their flagging turnover.

In the 1930s Keith Murray designed for Wedgwood for two or three months a year. His designs, although slow to get started, were a triumph. This was largely due to the excellent combination of Murray’s sleek styles and the matt glazes developed by Norman Wilson, Wedgwood’s works manager at the time. The range of vases and bowls were hand thrown and featured incised horizontal fluting or banding. They were glazed in plain matt colours.

Other popular Murray items include the bronze coloured tobacco jar and the rare black basalt coffee set. Collectors just love the undecorated, simple shape Murray is famous for and they fit so well with today’s minimalist styles. Sadly for the world of ceramics, after WW2 Keith Murray went back to his architecture.