Troika moulds

Troika moulds from the collection estimated at £30,000-40,000 by Railtons.

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Close to 350 plaster moulds, including those for many of the best-known Newlyn period shapes, will be offered as a single lot by Railtons in Northumberland.

The Troika moulds have gained some notoriety since they were purchased by collector Ann Donaldson and her late husband Neville in 1983, shortly after the factory closed. At the time the couple, who collected Troika for over 30 years, lived in St Ives but moved back to their native north-east over 25 years ago.

Carefully stacked in a stable building, the 325-plus moulds have seldom been seen publicly since, although elements were pictured in Carol Cashmore’s book Troika Pottery, St Ives (1994) and loaned to Kensington Church Street dealer Harry Lyons for the New Century exhibition the same year.

In July 2011, Ann Donaldson appeared with pieces from the collection on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow at the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall, where it was appraised by specialist Will Farmer at £70,000.

Troika moulds

Some of the troika moulds from the collection.

Controversial sale

However, attempts to monetise the moulds from a collectable pottery factory have been controversial. It has been argued in the Troika collecting community that their release onto the market offered the potential for reproduction and deception.

The archive includes the moulds for popular Troika shapes such as the coffin vase, wheel vases, floating vases, slab pots, anvil vases, double egg cups, ashtrays, globe vases, wheel lamps and four-footed pots – many of them in multiples or different sizes.

Some collectors have argued that they should be smashed or donated to a museum in the hope of protecting the market from interlopers.

Having sold some moulds piecemeal and failed in a quiet attempt to find a single buyer for the collection through a local gallery, Donaldson has decided to sell by auction.

Auctioneer Jim Railton, who was first approached about selling the moulds 20 years ago, offers them for sale in Wooler on October 29 with an estimate of £30,000- 40,000. He believes they offer an intriguing business opportunity to perhaps resurrect the factory. “The sale does offer the real possibility of re-starting a Troika Pottery using the original moulds. Surely they should not be destroyed or hidden away for the sake of keeping the Troika market active. They are a little part of British ceramics history.”

The auction house has a small selection in the saleroom with the entire collection available to view by appointment.

Distinctive wares

The singular ceramics produced at the Troika factory in the 1960s-70s rank among the most distinctive wares of the period.

The pottery was founded by Leslie Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Serota in St Ives in 1962 before moving to Newlyn, also in Cornwall, in 1970.