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Peter Ellery & Tremaen Pottery

Let's face it - I come from a talented family - such a shame I didn't inherit all these skills! 

Brenda's younger brother Peter Ellery, was born in Newlyn on 6th April 1932. Growing up in Newlyn, he had a great friend in local author Liz Harman. He used to call at Liz's house for her to come out to play - but unable to get his tongue around her full name, he would ask her mum Rene for "Binnibus Barbara Nash"... Liz later wrote a sweet poem about him in her book 'Now Ark Some More'.

He was an enthusiastic Boy Scout, and along with his pal 'Biscuits', became a local Scout Master. Although the younger of Lena and Angus Ellery's children, it was Peter who got the chance to go on to college - it was felt that the boy would need to be a breadwinner for a future family, and although Brenda had 'matriculated' - passed all the relevant exams - they couldn't afford to send both away for further education.

Following in Angus's footsteps, Peter also had a love of painting. He attended Bath Academy of Art at Corsham to study painting, ... his father had started work as a painter and decorator, and went on to become a sign-writer and painter of pub signs.  At the start of every term, Lena would pack a large trunk to be shipped up to Corsham, with all his clothes, with hand-knitted jumpers, and with cakes and pasties, to keep Peter in style while he was away.  

Despite studying art, it was pottery and games that he focused on  in his first job, teaching in a secondary school in Welwyn Garden City. He taught for 9 years, becoming head of the art department in the school. Here he met and married Mary Guy, from Gosport.

But in 1964, when Lena died, he decided to fulfill a dream and return to Cornwall to open his own studio pottery. He phoned Brenda and Angus, and explained his plans, asking for their support and an investment from each of £100. They agreed, and in 1965 he moved back to Penzance with Mary and their young son Adam. A second son, Jonathon, soon joined them.

Peter, Angus and Brenda became the three directors of the newly-formed Tremaen Pottery, which started life in The Barn, Moorlands, in Marazion. The name Tremaen, Cornish for three stones, was chosen for the three directors, and the stone shapes used, and the logo was modelled on the 3-legged stone megalith, Lanyon Quoit.

 
 

At Marazion, Peter experimented with several different options to discover what worked for him - and he soon settled on the notion of sculpted pottery lamp-bases. He soon moved from thrown shapes to moulded plaster casts of natural boulders found on local beaches (see photo below). These could be made by anyone there and didn't require specialist throwing skills, and were at the same time distinctive and unique.

The lampbases proved popular, and Tremaen soon outgrew the barn at Marazion... Peter, Angus and Brenda took on a fish loft in corner of Newlyn Harbour, where the business was to stay throughout its life.

 
 

A screenprint Peter did in the 1970s, one of a series based on an album cover he designed for Brenda's Piper's Folk LP

 

At Newlyn, the pottery went from strength to strength. They expanded their workforce, having taken on their first worker, Bunty Duffin, while at Marazion, eventually employing some dozen or more staff. Peter came up with new designs every year, and attended Trade Fairs around the country, at one point supplying Heals in London - he actually turned down offers to sell overseas, feeling that the 'mass-production'  necessary would destroy the artisan craft pottery ethos he valued.

 

Tremaen had now joined Troika and Celtic Potteries to become one of the "big 3" studio potteries in west Cornwall.  A highlight was the visit of Princess Anne to west Cornwall in  1972 - in the middle of a hectic social whirl, Anne was treated to a tour of Tremaen Pottery, and presented with a gift of one of the most impressive lampbases.

A range of other wares was created over the years, including vases, ashtrays, bowls, and a number of small pebble-shaped pots, door-knobs, pen-, toothbrush- and pipe-holders, and even pendants. Angus was a determined innovator, and was forever coming up with 'sure-fire hot sellers', not all of which were so enthusiastically received by Peter.

By the early 1970s, Tremaen Pottery was able to take on the lease of a large shop premises in Market Jew Street in Penzance, and opened as Tremaen Craft Market, with Brenda as manageress - Peter and Angus continued to work in the pottery. Initially, Peter's idea was to sell only craftwork made in Cornwall, and for a while the shop specialised in studio pottery from within a 30 mile or so radius of Penzance. Eventually Peter bowed to market forces and the range of stock expanded to include everything from inexpensive jewellery, to contemporary glass and plastic homewares.

A separate branch of the business was started under the name Angus, buying and selling the distinctive hessian shades to go with the lamps. 

In 1974, Brenda, who had been singing and touring for some years part-time following her involvement in the local folk scene, decided to take the plunge and turn professional as a singer, with guitarist Robert Bartlett, as a duo called Crowdy Crawn. To my great surprise, she asked if I was willing to take over her role as Shop Manageress - which I was - and I worked with Peter, running the shop for four years.. 

In 1975, Angus died, in 1977 I left as I was expecting my first baby, and with Brenda away on tour much of the time, Peter was left as sole director. The shop was remodelled as 'Tremaens', and while still selling some local pottery, including Tremaen, obviously, the focus was more on high quality giftware.

Around the late 1970s, more space was needed for production, and the pottery expanded further into a barn in Newlyn Coombe - Zimmerman's Barn - however this was a short-lived venture, and the barn was later sold to one of the girls who worked for the pottery.

 

Peter did have a life away from the pottery - he lived with Mary, her mother Gladys, their sons Adam and Jonathon and a succession of dogs in three houses in Penzance, lastly in a beautiful 'arts and crafts' styled home in Laregan Hill, with Newlyn copper doorplates. He loved painting, in watercolours and oils, and was very involved with the local arts community, serving as Chairman of Newlyn Orion Gallery in the 1980s, as well as serving as Chairman of the Governors at Mounts Bay School.

With the shop now well established, it kept going for many  more years until Peter decided to sell up and retire in 1995 - one year after Brenda died. The shop was sold to James Saulter, who for many years had run the chemist shop on the opposite corner.

Peter had looked forward to his retirement, painting, touring, and walking his dog on the cliffs - tragically, within a year of selling the shop, he'd died from cancer. He was my only, and my much-loved, Uncle.