Tremar Pottery – Shelf Pottery – What’s Up With This?
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Why did Tremar Pottery and Shelf Pottery make essentially identical pieces?
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Tremar Potteries of Tremar and Liskeard in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom went out of business following the explosion of a kiln in 1983.
Shelf Pottery Ltd was located more than 300 hundred miles away in Halifax just outside of Leeds in northern England. I don’t know which years Shelf Pottery was actively producing pottery pieces.
Tremar Pottery and Shelf Pottery manufactured a number of pieces that were essentially identical. Many look to me as though they could have been made from the same mold.
Some pieces were labeled Shelf Pottery Ltd, and some were labeled Shelf Concept. Maybe these different trade names used by the same company, or maybe these were two different companies.
Email from Graham Alcock of Shelf Pottery, 8 September 2011
Shelf Pottery began in my garage, at home in Shelf (a small village between Halifax and Bradford in West Yorkshire) and continued on three other sites until I stopped production at the end of the 90s. As the designer and production director I was involved with Tremar Pottery on a day to day basis.
We became involved with Tremar in the early 70s as their, stoneware, table and kitchen ware was an ideal complimentary product to our own stoneware. We had a retail shop but the vast majority of our production was marketed through our party plan organisation. We had large deliveries of Tremar each week as it was extremely popular.
We had no warning when Tremar went into administration and we were left with ten weeks of orders which we were unable to fulfill. After contacting the administrator we solved part of the problem by driving to Cornwall and buying some of the remaining stock.
Shelf and Tremar both used the same mould maker in Stoke. After the liquidation he was left with the block, case and master moulds and, I believe, unpaid bills. As the receiver showed no interest in the moulds, in order to help both our problems, the mould maker made a number of working moulds, which we bought, and used at Shelf. This is how Shelf Pottery came to produce its versions of a small number of Tremar models.
As an alternative to Tremar we bought stoneware from Trequoit Pottery which was designed by Louis Hudson. The ware was very similar to Tremar and the two could easily be confused. Louis had produced his range of stoneware for a long number of years and it is debatable as to which came first.
Tremar produced the right product at the right time and it was a surprise to us all when production ended.
I hope the above recollections may help you understand the interaction of the two potteries.
Note About Pictures Below: The translucent rubber feet that appear in some of the images on this page are not original to any of the pieces.
Example 1 – Tremar Cat Money Box/Piggy Bank
Tremar produced a Cat Money Box/Piggy Bank. Identical cats were produced by Shelf Pottery/Shelf Concept, but the glazes used were quite different. The glazes were shiny as opposed to the flat/matte glazes used on the Tremar Cat. And the typical Tremar earth tone colors were replaced by bright pastels of blue, green, yellow or peach.
The cat money box pictured below was purchased directly from Shelf Pottery at its Halifax store sometime in 1998 to 2000. This means that Shelf Pottery was using a design original produced by Tremar Pottery more than 15 years after Tremar stopped production. This mottled pink, peach and white cat has the same Shelf Concept sticker on the plug as the one shown in the image above in the blue cat. Information provided by janade1 on ebay.co.uk.
Example 2 – Tremar School Money Box/Piggy Bank
Tremar produced a money box/piggy bank in the shape of a school building.
Shelf Pottery produced an identical size and design school building, but the piece was converted from a money box/piggy bank to a shell for a lamp. The coin slot was gone and windows and door were cut out for light to shine through. The bottom of the piece was modified in order to accommodate a power cord and light bulb.
Interestingly Shelf Pottery retained Tremar basic color scheme by using similar earth tone colors. At first glance the Shelf Pottery School Lamp looks like a Tremar School Money Box/Piggy Bank.
Example 3 – Tremar The Miners Arms Money Box/Piggy Bank
Tremar Pottery produced a money box/piggy bank in the shape of a pub named The Miners Arms.
A nearly identical piece was produced in a way that leads me to believe that it was not produced by Tremar Pottery, although it may have been. There is certainly a possibility that it was produced by Tremar Pottery as a test piece. Or it may have been produced by Shelf Pottery or someone else. I will refer to this piece as the Snow Arms, because of its bright white color.
The physical design of the traditional Tremar The Miners Arms money box/piggy bank is essentially identical to that of the Snow Arms. The coin slot has been cut into the piece at a different location, but Tremar pieces are regularly found with the coin slots cut in different locations or at different angles.
But there are important differences.
First the Snow Arms has a highly reflective, glossy white glaze that I have never seen on a piece manufactured by Tremar Pottery.
Second there is no marking of any kind on the bottom of the Snow Arms. It is true that not every single piece of Tremar Pottery was marked with the often seen TREMAR UK impressed into the clay. Certainly some of the small animals were not marked. But almost all of the larger pieces like this money box/piggy bank are marked.
Third the stopper in the bottom of the piece is quite different from those normally found in Tremar pieces. But of course I know stoppers can easily be replaced, and maybe this one was.
In any event, the white, shiny Snow Arms is an unusual piece. If you know more about this piece or anything that would be of interest to Tremar collectors, please contact me or leave a comment.