Gwladys Williams Menzies– Celebrating a Local Girl who Made Good

Gwladys Williams Menzies– Celebrating a Local Girl who Made Good

A project began this year to catalogue the remaining works of Gwladys Williams Menzies, born in Carleton Place in 1891.  Mrs. Menzies was an outstanding china painter and teacher for at least two generations in the Ottawa Valley.  Her pieces were never sold and she never accepted any commissions.  All her remaining pieces belong to family members, unavailable to the public.  Mrs. Menzies daughter is now elderly and very anxious to provide for her mother’s work once she is gone.  

Work was begun in January 2020 by members of the Canadian Ceramics Circle to catalogue the remaining china.  Unfortunately, only two photography sessions took place before the pandemic prevented further access.  With not very much to show for a year of elapsed time, it was decided to use what was available to produce an art calendar to introduce Mrs. Menzies’ remarkable work to the world.

 The calendar is now available and is beautiful.  The first run is already sold out, with a second run expected any day now.  It measures 12 x 12, is coil bound and has large day squares for notes.  The cost is $25.00 each.  And, yes, Mrs. Menzies place of birth, Carleton Place, appears in the calendar text. — Sue Hoegg

If there is any interest for the calendar please let me know.  Let’s put a little sparkle in the season and celebrate a girl who made good.

Gwladys Williams MenziesTeaching privately china painting was a vocation with Gwladys Williams Menzies. She was born in Carleton Place in 1891. At the turn of the century the family moved to Ottawa. Gwladys’s artistic talent found expression in china painting at a relatively early age, and after only a few lessons she set up her own studio. The first pieces she signed are dated 1912, when she was 21. Gwladys soon became the foremost teacher of china painting in the Ottawa area. She produced many complete lunch, tea and dinner sets for her family, but did not accept commissions. Gwladys favoured fine china blanks – usually Limoges, although occasionally she used Beleek or English factories. On completion she signed, dated and numbered each piece chronologically on the back over the glaze. Her first two finished pieces were plates, dated 1912. Her work combines an amazingly skilful technique with originality of design. She painted entirely freehand and loved to paint flowers and butterflies, both true to nature and stylised. But she also produced fine geometric designs showing the influence of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Gwladys maintained her studio until about 1930 – her last pieces are dated 1933. Gwladys Williams Menzies died in Ottawa in 1977, at the age of 86. (Fig. 8).

From Dr. Paul Robertson: China Painting – The Art of Master Painter Gwladys Williams Menzies (exhibition pamphlet), Ottawa, 1999.

Fig. 8 – Similar cups and saucers with butterflies, one signed M.S.C. / 1936 – Ottawa in front of a photograph of a Gwladys Williams Menzies creation from the same period.

photo Fraser Middleton -Gwladys Helena Williams
BIRTH 1891 • Carleton Place, Ontario
DEATH 18 JULY 1977 • Ottowa, Ontario, Canada

When Gwladys Helena Williams was born in 1891 in Carleton Place, Ontario, her father, Hugh, was 32, and her mother, Margaret, was 30. She married John Whyte Menzies on October 6, 1923, in Ontario. They had two children during their marriage. He died on January 21, 1951, at the age of 66, and was buried in Ottawa, Ontario.She died on July 18, 1977, in Ottawa, Ontario, at the age of 86, and was buried there.

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
11 Oct 1923, Thu  •  Page 6

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
23 Jan 1924, Wed  •  Page 7
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
19 Jan 1924, Sat  •  Page 25
Husband John W. Menzies
The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
19 Jul 1977, Tue  •  Page 34
Thomas Anwyl Williams was born on July 19, 1893, in Carleton Place, Ontario, to Margaret Helen Anderson, age 32, and Hugh Matthias Williams, age 33.

MOTHER-Margaret Helen Anderson was born on April 3, 1861, in Almonte, Ontario. She had one daughter with Hugh Matthias Williams in 1891. She died on July 4, 1925, in Kirk’s Ferry, Quebec, at the age of 64

FATHER-Hugh Matthias Williams was born on December 24, 1859, in Pwllheli, Caernarvonshire, Wales. He had one daughter with Margaret Helen Anderson in 1891. He died on November 15, 1931, in Ontario at the age of 71.

photos-Sue Hoegg

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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