Central Technical School

Central Technical School in Toronto was one of the earliest incubators for ceramics in the 20th century, especially the first six decades.Out of this school were to come not only potters of note to be discussed elsewhere on the site but also the most important ceramic seed organization, the Canadian Guild of Potters.

This page will deal with early developments in the school’s programs up to 1937, the year of the development of the Guild. Much of this information is gleaned from the school’s calendars of courses over the period. In 1903-04 the Toronto Technical Day School established a course in industrial art. Its calendar read:

The course is intended for the training of professional designers and to provide professional instruction in historic ornament and decorative design with their application to the industrial arts. The course in clay modelling is designed to give artistic training to those intending to devote themselves to decorative sculpture in terra cotta, wood or in those lines of manufactured goods where those lines where modern ornament is applicable.

The senior, 3rd year, fee was $10 per year and the designing component included designs for stained glass, carpets, earthenware and pottery. A photo of the class in clay modelling  showed male instuctors and about twelve students, all female. The evening school offered pottery in the seond year. Evening classes seemed to be a valid and important part of the school: overall evening school atendance was 1840 students, the day 305.

By 1909-10 the curriculm was explained in more detail suggesting a growing importance for the program. Course 1  now had animal forms, heads in relief, and general instruction in composition of ornament and figure. Advanced pottery had casting and composition. Evening courses had Modelliing 1 which included tiles and pottery; modelling 2  had modelling in advanced clay and wax for ornamental pottery.

In 1915-16 the school moved from 149 College street to its more familiar location at Harbord and Lippincott. The facilities now had clay modelling and casting rooms with “special damp cupboards…for preservation of models. Complete arrangements are made for casting and demonstrations.” There was also an applied arts and crafts room, “this room will be exclusively devoted to craft work particularly in conjunction with industrial design.” Special apparatus was was installed for  pottery making.

The evening class program became more serious at this time. In the Art and Design Program, students after consultation with the Director could substitute any of the following courses in Applied Art for the for the other subjects of this (3rd) year. Applied Art had a pottery class:

Preparation of clay; designing and making of shapes by turning and molding; placing in kiln and firing; designing and decorating of tiles, plates, vases, candlesticks, etc., in underglaze and overglaze colours; filling in of raised outlines with colour; work in sgaffito and by incising; ground laying; mixing and application of glaze to ware; firing.

There is no specific mention of wheels, except perhaps for the reference to turning, nor the type of kilns. There is at this time no specific identification of instructors. The general description of the course would remain essentially the same up to at least 1938.

The 1918-19 calendar lists the first designated pottery instructor,  J.A. Rachwall, probably male since all female instuctors are referred to as Miss or Mrs.  The facilities have now the features of a pottery room with two large rooms devoted to the manufacturing of “art pottery,” and a kiln room with three kilns for the firing of tile, china and pottery. The terms china is ambiguous and probably does not refer to porcelain. Pottery is suggestive of something that may reach beyond industrial design to art forms.

By 1919-20 the pottery courses have a special and occasional teacher, Miss V.I. Dickenson, BA, as the pottery instructor. From 1921-24 the position is held by Mrs H.E.J. Vernon and occasional others. By now the program is a four year program with crafts (pottery) included in the final year with approval of the Director of Art and Design.

1924-25 was a seminal year. The program took a major leap foward with the hiring of Mrs. Peter Haworth, ARCA. .

“Bobs” Cogill Haworth (1904-1988)

Originally from Queenstown, South Africa, she studied at the Royal College of Art, London, and received her degree, ARCA, from the University of London. She came to Toronto in 1923, and by 1924 was teaching ceramics at Central Technical School. From her exhibition history and existing extensive  production  of works she was an “artist” who ended up teaching pottery.

Pottery by "Bobs" Gogill Haworth. n.d.

Pottery by “Bobs” Gogill Haworth. n.d. Public Archives of Canada

By 1926 she was also listed as Zema Haworth; she was more popularly known as  “Bobs” Cogill Haworth. She was to provide Royal College of Art credibiility to the program, and of course, she was an import to add lustre to the local landscape. Known principally as a painter she eventually became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy. I could only find later examples of her work from the 1960s. So she did continue to produce throughout her career at “Central Tech.” This sample of her work shows simple functional forms and the linear decoration that emphasized the vertical favoured by many potters of the ’50s and ’60s.

She was an inspiration to her ceramics students  and served as Honorary President of the Canadian Guild of Potters, but her resumes deals almost exclusively with her painting. Apart from the illustration above I could find no references to or illustrations of her ceramic production. I am sure that this site will bring such works to light.

During the late ’20s classes were at first only open two afternoons a week and then expanded to two days a week. 1 Eventually the facilities were to become excellent for the time with a powerful electric wheel from England and with gas-fired and a big oil-fired kiln.2 Howarth’s teaching method, according to Bailey Leslie, was trial and error and too slow for her (Leslie). Once students had gotten as much as they could from Central Tech and wanted to progress into such things as stoneware they began to look at Alfred University in New York State.3

By 1928 the course had a former student, Nunzia D’Angelo, now listed as an assistant to Haworth. D’Angelo was a dynamic individual who looked beyond the school environs and was bringing ceramics out to the public  through demonstrations and networking.

Around 1929, when Bailey Leslie attended, the students were mostly housewives taking the courses as a hobby. There were very few men students.4

By 1933 the ceramics  is no longer listed as a craft component but as part of the “Design and Applied Design – Advanced Study” program. By 1936 D’Angelo is gone, seeking her own career. From this time on Haworth is listed as the instructor and the course description does not change to any degree. The momentum for ceramics moves out into the world of the Canadian Guild of Potters, the Canadian Handicrafts Guild  and exhibitions.


[1] Interview with Bailey Leslie, February 2, 1981.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

© 2013   studioceramicscanada.com

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