Art Deco .. Vintage Nilsen Kookaburra Electric Bird Jug

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Vintage Nilsen Electric Kookaburra Jugs are among the most sought-after collectable electric kettles, prized for their charming art deco bird shape. Verging on antique status my guide will show you what to look for if you come across one of these rare Aussie icons. 


Height = 195mm Width = 240mm Depth = 155mm.
Volume = 8 cups

Made by Nilsen Porcelain Australia (NPA) in Jackass Flat (Bendigo) VIC circa 1932

Moulded earthenware ceramic jug in the form of a kookaburra with the beak as the lip, 'C' shaped handle extending from the back of the head to above the tail and matching ceramic lid.

Fancy ceramic electric jugs became a status symbol during the Great Depression era and anyone who could offer to boil you a cuppa from a jug like this was obviously doing swell.  The jugs themselves are elegant and clearly art deco in design, notice the beautiful wings.  There are variations in colour, lid shape and transfer sticker applied to the side.  This was an era before plastic so the swing lid is also made of ceramic and opens sliding to the side. Some will have been damaged over the years by knocks to the lip by the tap or sometimes the ceramic lid would break after accidentally being struck by a tea cup. After decades of service its rare to find a museum quality piece.

 

The plain kookaburras are by far the most common, speckled/mottled jugs were briefly fashionable as was lustering. You will find green mottled kookaburras more common than the blue and their price will reflect this. Mottling was done by hand using a sponge and covered the whole body and lid. Some are heavily speckled and colourful while others are lightly dappled. There are two different shapes to the ceramic lid the earliest is the broad flat lid that has a ridge running up the middle forming the bird’s beak the later shape is a feathering wave of 9 subtle ridges.

The jug had two transfers applied, one Nilsen logo went under the left wing, and on the bottom electrical specifications are given. The transfers VERY easily wear off. They should not be wet and certainly not scrubbed.  The base will be stamped NPA.

The trifecta for the perfect jug is 1. No crazing and cracks 2. No chips 3. Intact transfers

The jugs would still function if re-electrified. Beware original cords and rusty elements need replacing and the jug does not whistle or automatically shut off so must be supervised. Primarily, these jugs are enjoying a second life as ornamental features in modern kitchens and why not, they're a beautifully unique piece of Australian kitchenalia that appreciates in value every year.

Want to see kookaburras like this? See some in the Powerhouse Museum's collection.

During the 1950s & 1960s the kookaburra was re-released with a reshape to accommodate a durable Bakelite lid plus a half sized 'baby' 2 cup mini jug was added to the range.

 

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