Norman Underhill newsvendor

Norman Underhill newsvendor

Norman Underhill newsvendor - 7" (177 mm) high, 6¼" (158 mm) wide.

Underhill, Norman

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.


Leauger elephant