Originally launched in 1963, Totem propelled Portmerion pottery into stardom and is now considered to be a design icon of the 1960s. It was designed by Susan Williams-Ellis the owner of the pottery.
Like Denby Chevron and Arabesque by Gill Pemberton at about the same time, it was a revolutionary design and created a sensation as there was nothing else like it. It was successful into the seventies, and the motifs on the ware are the most copied of all design motifs of that period. I think there is something quintessentially Celtic or English Tribal about it.
It had a striking cylindrical shape and beautifully textured surface, featuring stars and spirals, making you just want to touch it. These designs were carved directly into the moulds by Susan. It was originally made in 3 colours – blue, amber and dark green. The translucent flow glaze accentuated the relief pattern. I'm not sure when the white was introduced - but if anyone knows please leave a comment.
The idea for the shapes of the range was a practical one. When Susan and her husband had bought the pottery a few years earlier, it had been Kirkham’s Pottery. In the factory there were a large number of cylindrical moulds that had been used for making medical, pharmacological and laboratory vessels. Susan put them to creative use in designing the Totem range.
In these images you can see the beautiful transparency of the glaze, and the amazing depth of the teapot lid! - designed so you didn't have to hold it to stop it falling out when pouring.
This year for its 50th Anniversary, PORTMERION has re-released the totem design in a anniversary mug in white.