The M&D Kratochvil Ellis pottery estate vintage collection

On the 3rd of February 2013, I had one of the most pleasurable vintage buying experiences of my lifetime.

Buying & Selling Vintage is rewarding in itself, however buying something for your own personal collection brings such an amazing feeling that you can’t explain, but only hope that others get to feel the same at some stage.

My experience on that day was out of this world.

I collect and absolutely love pottery by the Australian pottery company ‘Ellis.’
There are so many types of pieces out there, from common domestic ware like dishes & ashtrays, through to unique stylised hand build pottery figures.

The company ‘Ellis Ceramics’ was set up in 1953 by Dagma & Miloslav Kratochvil, a Czechoslovakian Husband & Wife team who worked like many potters of the era, in their own backyard in Abbotsford, Melbourne.

I love their pieces so much as each piece is so unique.  Even pieces that were made repetitively from the same mold are individual as many of them were hand decorated and carved by art students.  I’ve never seen two pieces the same.

What was so special about this particular buying experience?  A Melbourne auction house was lucky enough to be consigned the Ellis pottery estate.

Mr Bob Masin, nephew of the Kratochvils, was ready to pass on their collection, and it was on offer to ME!

I died when I heard the word.  This is the dream.  I had no idea what to expect but everything inside me was jelly.

The collection included around 100 pieces.  Works were mostly prototypes, one off pieces, hand build figures, experimental styles, there even included ephemera like sketches, designs and photographs of his works.

There were also books from their personal library, that showed where their inspiration came from.  This was incredible. INCREDIBLE.

I went into viewing hoping with all my hope they’d allow me to photograph the pieces, in fear I’d not be able to leave with one piece to add to my collection and It’d be like the day never existed.  But photography was welcome and although my hands were shaking with excitement, I got to pickup and touch, and examine and photograph these museum worthy pieces.

Most pieces in this collection, though as mentioned above every piece by Ellis is unique, were even more unique.  They were not only one off pieces made in experimentation, but they were part of the Kratochvil’s personal collection.  They for some reason or another decided they liked it, or treasured it in some way, and felt the need to hold onto it for themselves, and not sell it.


I went through each piece with a fine tooth comb, really taking in absolutely everything I could.  Knowing the competition for these pieces would be fierce and I may, just may leave with nothing. I wanted to make the most of this.  I was at the viewing for hours.

My heart is racing just reliving this.  I hope I don’t sound like a crazy lady getting so excited about lumps of clay, haha but insert your dream auction in replacement of my pottery, let’s say Chanel. (Don’t we all wish) And then add that it’s actually Coco Chanel’s personal collection of her own works.  Is your heart fluttering yet?

Alrighty let me get to some photos.

(I should mention I buy Ellis pottery! So if you have any figures you’d like to sell me, I’d love to add them to my collection! – They’d be well loved!)

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
Boom! That’s a lot of pottery isn’t it!?

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collectionVintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection

Some of the unusual Ellis pots and vases, most were hand built and wacky creations.
Not my preferred thing but I can see great value in them in the future.

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
A photo of one of their photographs capturing some of their creations.

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
Some of the bigger more elaborate figures.
Who’d have ever thought they were an Ellis creation.  Completely amazing.

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
A whole pile of designs and sketches. WOW!!!

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
An unusual Inuit style figure.  I have a similar but completely different one at home.

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
This would have been the KING piece of the auction.  It sold quite well.
Not an Ellis piece, however it came from their estate.  Can you pick who created it?
Nope, neither could the auction house!  They mis-named the piece calling it Gus McLaren instead of Iris Gailbraith.

Vintage Ellis Australian pottery estate purchase collection
I liked this dude.  He made me happy! He’s so colourful (More so on his back) and short. Kind of like me!

I was lucky enough to buy him (Yay I got a piece I got a piece)

I was so lucky to end up leaving with a few to add to my collection and am so excited to own such an important part of Australian history.

I used to collect all Ellis pottery however had to limit it to just collecting the figures.

Oh and if you happen to have any figures, I’d definitely be interested in buying them.  ;)



Trish Hunter
Trish Hunter - Founder of The Vintage Post, mid-century design collector, passionate about history, dog lover, excessive !!! user and smiler.
Trish Hunter


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Comments (5)

  1. In all my vintage hunting, ceramics hasn’t been something I’ve spent much time investigating. Apart from my obsession with mid-century vintage Japanese teacups etc.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post on Ellis. It looks like such and amazing collection and I can just imagine how excited you were (and still are!) about it. :)

    I’ll try to keep an eye our for any of their works at the estate sales I frequent. You never know!


    • You must go bonkers at these sales! I can’t even imagine. We don’t seem to have many estate sales down here. So sad. I get so envious of the amazing treasures you must find there!! So great. Do keep an eye out that’d be fab!! Maybe if I get enough Japanese teacups we can trade cups for figures one day :):)

  2. Hi I have inherited from my mother who worked at Ellis Ceramics in Abbotsford ,around 50 pieces ,including coffee sets ,plates.saucers jugs etc etc.

    We never used any of the items,and now decided to sell them,as we are house moving.Would appreciate if you can tell an approx value.pls supply your email address to send you photos.

    Cheers, Nicholas

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