Sleek styles and matt glaze designs

editorial image

As a boy my love for the auction room and the pull of the family business was never in doubt.

If I had a fallback position, however, it would have been racing driver or architect.

Keith Murray was an architect. 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 including, the most popular, blues and greens.

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 World War Two Keith Murray went back to his architecture.