When Annette Tuck came into Te Toi Uku, she held out her hands and showed me two Spartan Father Christmas Figures. Annette recalls decorating these figures around 1948 while she was studying at Elam School of Fine Arts. After class she would would paint Santa’s for extra cash.
Originally the small Santa came with a little cottage, and was used for adorning Xmas cakes. And they also made a larger ornamental 14cm tall Santa holding a large sack of presents. Annette remembers that Father Christmas had to be painted a certain way – red coat, black belt, white beard etc. But each painter had artistic freedom to paint the presents how they wished. Annette also painted small boy & girl figurines.
Annette went to a factory to paint these figures, then she started working from home. The factory would drop off a box of figures and she would paint as many as she could. Each santa would have a stick placed into their base, which she would hold while painting the figures – they looked like strange lollypops.
Spartan Products was established by three men who had previously worked for CERAMCO (Crown Lynn). Spartan specialised in slip-cast and bisque fired figures, that were then hand-painted. Accorfding to Gail Henry’s book New Zealand Pottery, Spartain Products operated between 1944-1946, in Glen Eden.
(The primary image is of Annette Tuck’s hands holding the Santa figures she painted in the 1940s. (in the background of this image is an aerial photograph of the Amalgamated Brickworks.)