Maude Poynter (1869–1945) is one of Australia’s pioneering studio potters. She was born in Geelong, Victoria, and studied initially at the Slade School of Art in London and later at the Kingston-on-Thames School of Art in 1913. Returning to Australia, she moved to Tasmania in 1918 to live with her sister at Ratho, a property near Bothwell. Supported by a private income from her father’s estate, Poynter was free to pursue artistic interests and operated a pottery at Ratho, teaching ceramics to local women – including her cousin, Violet Mace (1890–1968) who was to become a successful potter in her own right. At the 1919 Arts and Crafts Society exhibition in Hobart, Poynter became the first Tasmanian studio potter to exhibit work that she had thrown, glazed and fired herself.
Poynter’s overseas training combined, perhaps, with connections forged through her cousin – the English Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir Edward Poynter (1836–1919) – gave her experience of the latest artistic developments in Europe, such as the Arts and Craft movement in Britain. This vase, with its stylised, graphic decoration, demonstrates at once this British influence and Poynter’s skills and originality as a decorator. Her work is experimental, influenced by her interest in painting, and often includes modelled components and native plants and animals.
Poynter built a wood-fired kiln at Ratho, but used a small electric kiln after she moved to Hobart in 1935. She continued to teach privately in Hobart and New Norfolk. As a pioneering studio potter, she experienced some difficulty obtaining supplies in Tasmania. She sourced her clay from Campbell’s, an industrial pottery in Launceston; she imported her glazes from Wengers Limited of Etruria, Staffordshire, England.