Bernard Leach - Large Bottle Jar, Glazed Stoneware. Leach is the most influential of the studio potters. Courtesy Pallant House Gallery
We all use ceramics every day, but visitors can escape from the mass-produced variety at The Treasury, Chichester Cathedral, and see an exhibition of hand-thrown examples by some of the most influential makers.
British Studio Pottery: From Bernard Leach to Lucie Rie runs until October 2 2005 and shows that for most of the 20th century, Britain was the world’s leading centre for studio pottery.
The originality and simplicity of these ceramics, with their blend of influences from East and West, has often led to parallels being drawn with other types of modern art.
Studio pottery has been described as a link between painting and sculpture. Michael Cardew - Jug With Pulled Handle. Courtesy Pallant House Gallery
In the pre-war years some critics wrote of pottery as a link between painting and sculpture. In 1930, Herbert Read described potters as “canvas-free artists”, and in 1943 Charles Marriot, art critic in The Times, wrote of studio pottery as “precisely abstract sculpture”.
Simon Martin, assistant curator of the exhibition, said: “We are very fortunate to be able to use such a beautiful venue as The Treasury to display the extraordinary works of leading potters. We are also fortunate that private donors have loaned us these stunning pieces.”
Studio pottery has its roots in the Arts and Crafts movement. In contrast to factory craftsmen mass-producing decorative wares to the designs of others, the studio potter was a hands-on maker who controlled the whole process of creation from the design, throwing and turning to the decoration, glazing and firing.
A Gourd Vase by the Martin Brothers, considered the earliest studio potters. Courtesy Pallant House Gallery
Before World War Two, studio pottery in Britain was dominated by the teachings and work of Bernard Leach. Living in Japan and China from 1909 until 1920, he discovered traditional Japanese pottery and established a lifelong friendship with renowned potter Hamada.
Leach stressed the importance of a pot’s materials, its weight, shape and texture, as well as introducing a bond between materials and maker and suggesting an alliance between life and art.
While Bernard Leach is often considered to be the most influential studio potter, the exhibition also features important examples of the ‘Gourd Vases’ by the Martin Brothers, who could be considered the earliest studio potters.
Hans Coper - Spade Vase, Stoneware. Courtesy Pallant House Gallery
Also included are the post-war developments heralded by the arrival of the European émigrés Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and Ruth Duckworth, and the experimental work of their pupils Ewen Henderson, Alison Britton and James Tower.
The exhibition features ceramics from the collection of Pallant House Gallery, with loans from University College Chichester and a number of private collections.
Simon added: “This is the first time there has been a devoted exhibition of British Studio Pottery in the area and it has been met with a very positive response.”
Emily Sands is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South Eastern region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.