These ramekins were mass produced by Martin Boyd Potteries, a company established in 1946 by Guy Martin Boyd (a member of Australia’s artistic/literary Boyd family) and Norma Flegg. When new, the ramekins were valued for their fresh appearance and solid practicality. Many have survived to be traded today both online and via op shops.
Their varied colour combinations and lack of decoration differentiated these bowls from the dinnerware that was most valued in mid twentieth century Australia: matched sets of fine porcelain or bone china, with intricate applied decoration. In such formal dinner sets, soup bowls lacked handles and were intended for use at a dining table. In contrast, handles made the Boyd ramekins appropriate for use at the kitchen table, in front of the television, or outdoors, while their cool design and good quality finish set them above other crockery suitable for such informal meals.
The appeal of these objects to a new generation could be put down to their mix of Bauhaus-inspired simplicity and unusual colour combinations. Or it could be simply that they are cheap and cheerful. But why do examples in good condition keep turning up for sale? Perhaps, after a first flush of use, they were reserved for special occasions, consigned to a high shelf and forgotten for years. More prosaically, they could have moved gradually into the dim depths of cupboards, replaced in everyday use by bowls that stacked more compactly in dishwashers. It is thus perhaps appropriate that the Museum’s ramekins are still in their original packaging and have never been selected for display.
From Retro: A guide to mid-20th century design revival by Adrian Franklin, published by New South Publishing in association with the Powerhouse Museum, 2011
First published in Powerline, September 2011