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Ceramics at the Ballarat School of Mines and the Ballarat Technical Art School

1918 - "A new department of instruction in the manufacture and decorative treatment of pottery will soon be opened up. A kiln has already been built, and numerous tests in the School laboratories have shown that the local clays are among the best in Australia for the manufacture of white earthenware. Consideration has also been given to the manufacture of pigments, for which there is a keen demand."[1]

Ballarat Technical Art School Ceramics Class, with lecturer Neville Bunning standing at top right. c1940s. Federation University Historical Collection (Cat. No. 264)

Pre 1983 - Ceramics and sculpture were housed in substandard accommodation in the Ballarat School of Mines Old Battery. The building was demolished for the Stage 2 Development - The Trade and Art Building (M.B. John Building). In the interim period (between the demolition of the old building and construction of the new, ceramics was accommodated in the Old Plumbing Building. The new facility was designed to include the ceramics studio, kiln room, glaze area ad store, wet clay area, 3D studio, plaster mix, store, design studio, store and teacher stations - an area of 580m square. [2]

Ceramics Lecturers at Ballarat

Robert Allan - Bridget Bodenham - Roger Bodenham - Neville Mirvane Bunning - John Crump - Neville French - John Gilbert - Peter Pilven

Ballarat and District Native Clay Deposits

BALLARAT, Friday.-In connection with the movemont to extend Ballarat industries increased attention is being directed to the clay deposita in the southern part of the district.
Professor Hart, of the School of Mines, on, Friday stated that clays of good value were available for use, nnd he endorsed the proposal that an officer should be sent by the Government to report on them. He considered that the fireclay deposits at Little Bendigo, which are extensive, should not be overlooked, as they would make good bricks. A business man. Mr. Walker, is now showing a display of ware made in Sydney from clay sent from the Ballarat district Mr. R. M'Gregor, M.L.A., is interesting himself in the matter of having the deposits examined.[3]

It will of interest to those concerned in the establishment of now industries in Ballarat to learn that a company is in process of formation for the manufacture of pottery work. A lease has been secured of a clay deposit at Landilo, near Gordon, the property of Mr. H. Vaughan, and it is intended to bring the clay, into Ballarat, and manufacture the wares here. This course is, it is said, necessary, as young women, will be required in the manufacturing, besides men and youths, and labor of that kind at Gordon would be scarce.[4]

BALLARAT, Wednesday - Mr Dunn, director of geological survey, inspected the clay deposit at Lal Lal to-day. Upon his return to Ballarat he stated that there were huge deposits of excellent firebrick clay at Lal Lal, which required to be handled on in extensive scale with a modern plant if it was desired to establish a profitable îndustry there. There are also deposits suitable for pottery making. Manufactures from clay have for some time been made at Lal Lal on a small scale but the distance of the works from a market has under the existing conditions of working told against success, and the manufacturer has been practically "squeezed out".[5]

Outstanding success has attended the Ballarat Pottery Pty. Ltd., and extensive additions to the plant at Creswick-road are to be undertaken. The company is operating on valuable clay deposits discovered at Berringa, Talbot and Ballarat East.[6]

After serving during World War One Reginald Callister was appointed by the Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry in Melbourne, to investigate Ballarat's white earthenware. Soon after, on 27 June 1919, it was announced that Callister would be attached to the Ballarat School of Mines to carry out his duties, and to examine the possibility of establishing a pottery industry using local clays, especially the Lal Lal locality which was thought to be rich in clay deposits.[7] Other clay deposits inspected by Callister were at Yendon, Mt Egerton, Linton and Trewalla.</ref>Ballarat Courier, 23 September 1922.</ref>

The 1922 Ballarat School of Mines Anual Report boasted: Considerable success had also rewarded the efforts of Mr. R.C. Callister in his investigations into the suitability of clays in the Ballarat district for the manufacture of white earthenware products. His porcelain productions compared favourably, it was said, with other specimens of high grade porcelain ware of that time. In conjunction with Mr Callister's investigations into clays, additional samples of decorative earthenware were manufactured on various occasions in the Technical Art School's Pottery Class and these samples had been "fired" with satisfactory results. At this time an electrical process for "baking" pottery was being tried at the Technical Art School and it was yeilding good results which suggested the possibility of producing, at relatively low costs for clays in the Ballarat district, large quantites of porcelain ware for marketing.[8]

Also See

Ballarat School of Mines

Ballarat Technical Art School

Reginald Callister


Other Ceramic Product Manufacturing


  1. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1918, p.2.
  2. SMB Proposal for Certificate of Applied Art Ceramics, 1983. Federation University Historical Collection. Cat. No 9102.
  3. The Argus, 4 May 1910.
  4. Geelong Advertiser, 27 May 1910.
  5. The Argus, 4 June 1910.
  6. The Age, 30 June 1927.
  7. https://www.ballarat.edu.au/curator/honour-roll/honourroll_Callister,%20Reg.shtml
  8. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1922

--Clare K.Gervasoni 11:14, 25 October 2016 (AEDT)

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