The History of St George Potters
The ten founding members met at St George Technical College during the early 1960s. Upon completion of their pottery course they decided to keep in touch and held meetings in each other’s homes. At these meetings there were talks on various topics relating to pottery. The group’s first exhibition, with 280 pots, was held in November 1963 at Hurstville Civic Centre.
A second exhibition was held in November 1964 with Mollie Douglas heading the selection committee. Further exhibitions were held on a yearly basis, with members producing pots for sale at various exhibitions throughout Sydney.
In 1971 a workshop was established in Mortdale and a grant was received from the Arts Council, which enabled the group to purchase a wheel and a kiln. In late 1971 the group moved their workshop to the old bakery at Hurstville.
The old bakery was scheduled for demolition, which forced the group to find a new workshop in Mortdale during 1972. Adult classes were conducted in this workshop during 1972 and 1973.
In 1973 Rockdale Municipal Council offered a property in Arncliffe to the group. This was Old St David’s Church — in need of renovation — and the offer was accepted in September 1973. The group moved in during February 1974, relocating kilns and other equipment from Mortdale.
In April 1974 a demonstration by Gwynn Hansen was held as well as a Raku day. Rockdale Mayor Alderman George Moore officially opened the new workshop on 7 June 1974, with guest speaker Mollie Douglas. An exhibition and sale of work accompanied this event. All meetings and the annual exhibitions have been held at this location since then.
Due to the long-term lease provided by Rockdale Council, now the Bayside Council, and the large grounds surrounding the old church a decision was taken in 1978 to build a gas fired kiln in the grounds, allowing members to gain experience in a much larger range of techniques. This kiln was completed in 1979 but sadly needed to be removed in recent years due to downsizing of the studio land.
Electric kilns and other equipment have been replaced over the years from funds saved by the group and with the help of grants from council and other sources. Currently we have three refurbished fibre kilns with automatic controllers.
During the seventies and eighties the group ran an annual Raku firing day where students, members and friends could experience this firing technique. An annual “Ceramics Games” day was also held with students and members competed in events such as the tallest pot and longest coil.
Since establishment at Arncliffe there have been regular adult classes, usually a combination of at least three day and night classes. Various members have provided instructions to children, and assistance to teachers from local schools. Children’s classes were routinely held on Saturdays between 1975 and 1982. The group has occupied the premises at Arncliffe up to the current date. In 2017 the Bayside council repaired and painted the old church building and landscaped the outside area. Members have been developing the garden by planting flowers and vegetables. Interest in pottery has been growing in recent years and we have experienced an influx of new members and many of our classes are at capacity.
Old St David’s Church
St George Potters studio was formerly an Anglican church serving the surrounding district, then known as the town of Wincanton. It stands on part of the land granted in 1833 to convict overseer Reuben Hannam by Governor Bourke, as a reward for developing the sandstock brick much used in early colonial building.
Reuben’s son David made the land available to the Church of England from his father’s estate and a small primitive chapel was erected on the site sometime prior to 1861.
The brick nave of the present building, an example of the style known as ‘Commissioners’ Gothic’ was erected about 1879 by Samuel Jeeves, a local builder, the project receiving considerable support from Mrs David Hannam. It was named St David’s in memory of her husband who had died in September 1872. The transept, entrance porch and chancel were added by Samuel Jeeves in the early 1890s.
The original cedar seats and the lectern were removed in 1915 to furnish the new Anglican Church on Forest Road.