Norman Underhill man (signature)
Norman Underhill newsvendor
Norman Underhill newsvendor (back)
Norman Underhill newsvendor (mark)
Norman Underhill Old Friends
Norman Underhill Old Friends (back)
Norman Underhill Old Friends (signature)
Norman Underhill tramp
Norman Underhill tramp (signature)
Underhill clown (signature)
Norman Underhill was born in Bristol in 1933.
He ran a successful vehicle repair shop, and was first inspired to make figurines in his spare time by coal miners from the Mendips pits. He used clay hand-dug from a local river; an activity that was not popular with his wife, Avril. Norman's first kiln was home-made, but following the success of his figures he decided to invest £5 in a second-hand professionally made model.
By the early 1970s the earnings from his pottery figures were exceeding those from the vehicle repair service, and in 1973 the family moved to Meaver, a small hamlet near Mullion on the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall - the most southerly point in the British Isles.
He single-handedly converted a disused cowshed on the premises and set up his studio there, and the business grew from strength to strength. Norman produced only hand-made figures - every one was unique - and the range included Fishermen, Policemen, Chimney Sweeps, Pirates, Sea Captains, Carpenters, Dentists, Clowns, Artists; in all some sixty different characters. As well as selling from his studio, his work was sold by retail establishments in the south-west of England, Cumbria, the Midlands, Dublin and London. It was also exported to the United States and Canada.
He was asked by a medical institute to make a bust of Sir Barnes Wallis, the aircraft designer and inventor, and commissioned works followed for models of professional people; doctors, lawyers and the like.
Norman died in 1998 and Avril closed the shop in 2001. Collectors of his work, which was modelled with just a coffee spoon and a knife, are to be found in every continent.