There has been such a wide variety of Poole designs over the years that almost anyone can find something that appeals to them, whether you have previously been interested in pottery or not.
You might prefer the detailed floral and art deco patterns of the 1930’s, the post-war freeform contemporary wares, the studio style Delphis pieces of the 1960’s and 70’s or the modern Living Glaze ranges (which will become the collectors items of tomorrow). You may collect items painted, designed or thrown by key individuals, such as Truda Carter, Ruth Pavely, Gwen Haskins, Carol Cutler, Robert Jefferson, Guy Sydenham or Nicky Masserella. You may choose to collect small vases, large vases, plates, jugs, bowls, lamps, animal figures or even tableware.
Whatever your preference Poole is easy to start collecting as there is always a range of attractive, but relatively inexpensive, items available from all the main categories. As you progress you can start to hunt down those rarer and more obscure pieces, and begin to pay a bit more for the showpiece items in your collection.
Poole Pottery is nearly always marked on the base; it is very rare to find an unmarked piece. Usually when someone says "not marked, but I think it’s Poole" – it isn’t! Understanding what the marks mean is the key to identifying and dating Poole Pottery.
Reading the marks is quite easy, but you will need a reference book to decode them fully (Poole Pottery by Hayward and Atterbury is the standard text). Here are some examples.
The backstamp is either an incised mark, that may read "Carter Stabler Adams", "Poole, England" or similar, or a printed mark reading "Poole, England" with a dolphin figure. There may also be a range name ("Aegean"). There are many variations in size, wording and layout, and even different styles of dolphin, which can be used to help date the item.
Most items have an impressed or printed shape number. This can be useful in establishing the size and shape of an item from a photograph, and in some cases gives a good indication for dating.
Shape numbers were sometimes re-used, for example shape 361 appears on 1930’s vases and 1970’s sweet dishes.
Most traditional and contemporary Poole carries a pattern code. This is usually 2 or 3 letters, sometimes preceded by a slash ("/"). Common floral patterns are BN and CS, for example. From the 1950’s on, some patterns were classified as "elaborate", in which case the pattern code was preceded by an "E", or "simplified" ("S"). There was also a medium ("M") and Gwen Haskins, paintshop supervisor, used her own "X" mark as a prefix.
It is a common mistake to see "signed by the painter BN" or similar in descriptions of Poole – this is not the painter, it is the pattern code. Note that popular ranges such as Delphis and Aegean, where each item is unique, do not carry pattern codes.
One of the joys of Poole is that most collectable pieces are signed by the paintress, which gives a nice personal touch and is also useful for dating. Sometimes initials are used but more often it is a symbol. There have been scores of paintresses over the years and, whilst some monograms are easy to recognise, most need some research to establish identity. The Hayward and Atterbury book has a long list of marks in the back.
Some items, particularly Atlantis, have an impressed monogram, which is that of the thrower / decorator. One anomaly is that Poole Studio items are normally not signed; they were reputedly the work of more than one artist.