Peter Longman - Studio Pottery

  • Clevedon School Sixth Form Centre Valley Road Clevedon BS21 6AH United Kingdom

From Mud and Water Man to Moon Jar Lady - 100 years of Studio Pottery in Britain

Tonight will be a fantastic opportunity to see and handle pieces of unique museum quality pottery from Peters own collection.

People have been making pottery for 10,000 years; the fusion of the four ancient elements of earth, water, air and fire produces vessels from which we can cook and drink and feed ourselves, and that can also give an aesthetic pleasure to the touch and to the eye.  The poet and critic Sir Herbert Read wrote that “if you want judge the art of a country, judge the fineness of its sensibility by its pottery; it is a sure touchstone”.  

Potters were an essential part of any community, and their skills were often passed down through the generations. But that tradition stated to change with mass production and the industrial revolution. Studio pottery in Britain was born of the Arts and Crafts Movement, started by John Ruskin and William Morris in the 19th century as a reaction against mass production and to seek a return to the traditions of the individual maker. 

The pioneers of studio pottery 100 years ago were influenced by those so-called ‘peasant potters’ who still survived, particularly in the west country, as well as by the traditions and techniques of the far east with their exotic glazes and use of porcelain. Some saw themselves as akin to fine artists and attempted to price their work accordingly, but most simply wanted to make things that ordinary people would appreciate and could afford to use. The best known exponent was Bernard Leach who discovered pottery whilst in Japan and in 1920 set up a workshop at St Ives that still survives today. He helped train a generation of potters from all around the world; his grandson John continues the family tradition at Muchelney near Langport.  The Winchcombe Pottery near Cheltenham was re-opened by Leach’s first pupil, Michael Cardew, in 1926 and is also still run on traditional lines. However most studio potters now work on their own, producing items for domestic use alongside more expensive exhibition pieces.

The range of work now being made runs from simple coffee mugs and plates to one-off ceramic sculpture for fashionable art galleries, whilst the influences today   include the far east, modern European, traditional African art, abstract, and even geological forms.

Peter Longman developed the collecting bug whilst working as Deputy Director of the Crafts Council 35 years ago, and his talk is largely based on pots made in the west country.  There will be an opportunity to handle selected pieces and to view the rest of the collection.  

Peter was 5 years as Deputy Director of the Crafts Council and 11 years as the Government's Chief Advisor on Museums and Galleries - so look forward to a great night.