Crown Lynn Swans: A brief history of the much loved New Zealand design classic September 10 2014, 0 Comments

Look alike Crown Lynn Swans from the Retro Lynn range from Studio Ceramics

Born from the exigencies of war, New Zealand austerity measures during World War Two led to the creation of one of New Zealand’s most iconic pieces of pottery known to post-war Kiwis: the Crown Lynn Swans. 

During the war period the New Zealand government banned the importation of luxury items, or the production of New Zealand pottery for the duration of the conflict.  Viewing the consumption of luxury items as bad taste in the face of world wide suffering and deprivation, and the recognition that all materials and efforts should be devoted to winning the war, the government decreed that only utility ware should be made until the conclusion of hostilities.     

A lucky loophole in the wording of the legislation allowed room for some interpretation, however and that is how the Crown Lynn Swans were born. 

The Utilitarian Swan...

The stricture against ornamentation dictated that all items that were produced be designed to serve “practical” purposes.  To achieve compliance, the creative team at Crown Lynn recreated the ornamental swan sculpture, which was likely based on a Sylvac design that was very popular in England at the time, and inserted a hole which transformed the item into a functional vase that had the ability to demonstrate practicality.  It was after all a vase that could hold real flowers. 

Admittedly, due to the irregular shape of the hole, the resultant floral arrangement bordered on the comical as any sense of horticultural balance was lost due to the haphazard jutting of stems and leaves that emanated from the swan’s backside.  The dysfunctional functionality of the piece was intended by the manufacturer as a way of producing ornamental work without risking the ire of the war production board.

Produced almost uniformly in white, the Crown Lynn Swans were available in three sizes: small medium, and large.  Additionally, the large sized swans were offered in two different variants.  The first was known as the, “on lake” swan while the other was dubbed the “on shore” swan.  The former featured a sleeker looking water fowl and no discernible feet, while the latter was a much plumper specimen that displayed its webbed appendages.

Post-War Popularity...

His efforts were warmly received by the buying public and his product began appearing on the shelves of homes throughout New Zealand.  The clean, utilitarian lines were a definite selling feature for a New Zealand population that was comprised primarily of recent English immigrants.  Often given as gifts at important life milestones, a rich culture came to surround the giving of swans throughout the nation.  By the mid-1970s however, the ubiquitous swan was out of favor with a public that sought hand-made crafts while eschewing products that were clearly manufactured by machine as was the case with the Crown Lynn Swans.

Fast forward another four decades and the simple lines of the Crown Lynn Swans are finding favor again as collectables that are capable of commanding truly high prices.  For those who are wishing to display a piece of New Zealand nostalgia, replica swans are making a big comeback at a fraction of the cost of an original piece.  Now you can display this iconic New Zealand pottery piece without the fear that an expensive original will fall victim to the over-zealous attention of your grandchildren. 

Get Your Kiwiana Retro Swan Today...

To explore your full range of available options, you should check out the amazing replica swans that are in inventory at TheMotelShop.  Unlike the originals, these beautiful replicas are available in four different colors: black and white matte, glossy pink, and duck egg blue.  Recapture a piece of New Zealand artistic history with a Retro Lynn Swan today. Lovely Swan Lamps now available. 


Other classics of New Zealand design style are the McAlpine fridge jugs availble in 4 colour ways, Nautilus shell vase with a green glaze, Ranfurly Shell vase,  the Iconic fish vase, and the Brussells Shell Vase All available at The Motel Shop.