Studio Pottery – Works from a Private Collection

There are many interconnecting links and lineages within the world of studio pottery. Friendships and connections made which lasted a short time or a lifetime can be tracked through the pots themselves and the underlying ideas which brought them into being.

In Britain, the network of influence and association generally known as the Leach Tradition has shaped so much of what we see and how we understand the concept of the potter.

Bernard Leach’s travels in Japan in the early years of the twentieth century and his subsequent decision to set up a pottery and kiln in St.Ives, Cornwall and his life-long association with his friend Hamada Shoji are well recorded in literature and legend; they have been factors that have shaped the path of much of the work produced by the studio pottery movement for well over a century and continue to do so.

This small group of ceramics come from our own collection, gathered together over twenty years. The decision to let them find the next chapter in their story has not been an easy one to make, but we hope that they will find new homes where they will be appreciated and enjoyed.

Hamada Shoji (1894-1978)

Hamada and Leach first met in Japan in 1918 and he accompanied Bernard on his return to Britain in 1920, helping build the kiln and set up the fledgling St.Ives Pottery. Greatly influenced by the mingei, or folk-art, movement in Japan which sought to raise the perception of the beauty in everyday hand-made objects and crafts, often the produce of anonymous craftsmen, Hamada in later life found himself rather at odds with the movement’s principles as he became something of an international star with his pieces collected worldwide for substantial prices. His home and studio in Mashiko, Japan are preserved as a museum.

Both Leach and Hamada taught others and it is through this aspect of their work that we see the most direct influence as the baton was passed to their younger students and apprentices.

William Marshall (1923-2007)

At the age of 14, William Marshall, or Bill as he was generally known, became Bernard Leach’s first apprentice. He was to stay at the Leach Pottery until 1977 and was very much Leach’s right-hand man. As Leach grew older, Marshall, a natural thrower, would often throw some of Leach’s larger and more challenging pots for the master to finish and decorate. His own work has a very distinct voice and using a relatively small repertoire of forms and glazes, he created pieces which impress by their quiet but strong presence. His pots have the cardinal values of function and form to the fore and are also eminently useable.

Warren Mackenzie (1924-2018)

Warren Mackenzie was a student at the Leach Pottery from 1949-1952 and, like his master, was deeply influenced by the ideas that underpinned the mingei approach to ceramics, producing simple but functional wares. Returning to his native America, he became a teacher at the University of Minnesota and passed on his knowledge and understanding to a further generation of potters.

Shimaoka Tatsuzo (1919-2007)

Shimaoka Tatsuzo was Hamada’s most significant pupil. Apprenticed to Hamada from 1946-49, he began to become known outside Japan in the 1960s and 1970s and developed a very distinctive style, combining traditional forms with the jomon technique of rolling rope into the clay surface to create patterns of indentation which could then be filled with slip and then rubbed back. In 1996 he was declared a Living National Treasure by the Japanese Government.

William Plumptre (1959)

Shimaoka’s pottery in Mashiko was where William Plumptre studied, one of only twelve non-Japanese students ever taken on by the master. Some of you may be familiar with Plumptre’s work from the exhibitions we have staged and he has retained the strong Japanese influence in the forms he uses, but over time has developed his glazes and the ways in which they work with the surfaces and decoration of his pots to create a highly distinctive body of work.

Ken Matsuzaki (b.1950)

Ken Matsuzaki too was a pupil of Shimaoka, studying with the master in the early 1970s and then working to create a wide palette of glazes that enhance the repertoire of forms he uses. The golden ash glaze on a simple teabowl form seen here is typical of the way in which his work never fails to delight.

Janet Leach (1918-1997)

Janet Leach, American by birth, came to St.Ives in 1956, marrying Bernard Leach and becoming a very distinctive voice in the ceramics world. Her immensely creative work was much influenced by oriental ideas and practice and she could be very critical of the more mainstream tradition. Her pots exhibit a huge range of forms, glazes and decoration, many of which are still very influential for potters working now.
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