Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Leach: A Book and a Pot

It’s always worth having a look on Ebay in case there’s a bargain to be had. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in their books department when I found a copy of Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book. I knew this was a classic in terms of ceramics: a title on the list of ‘books-to-read-one-day’. So I decided I might as well make a bid (especially since it was only six quid) and a couple of hours later an email told me I’d won!

I’m really chuffed with my copy. It’s a 1965 hardback edition with dust jacket, in good condition and complete with a musty old book smell that all the best books should have. It’s a really nice size too - so many pottery books are huge, heavy things with sharp corners, which make them uncomfortable and exhausting to read. I’ve only just started to read this one however (a couple of pages in) but flicking through I can tell there’s plenty of information and ideas to absorb. I’m particularly interested in the chapter on Decoration because this is an area I want to develop in my own work. And since Leach was such a master of brushwork, I’m hoping I can gain some ideas and technical tips. (If you don’t know who Leach was by the way, here’s a wiki bio.)

On the subject of Leach, I thought I’d also mention a St Ives Pottery piece IC bought back in May this year. We found it in the same local second-hand warehouse place I bought my little rush pottery stool from (blogged here). IC spotted the pot first and called dibs before I could get a chance! Straight away I knew it was a ‘proper pot’ because I’d seen one exactly like it in the V&A in their Ceramics Gallery. But we didn’t realise until we got it home and checked the seal that it’s a St Ives piece. After some research we established it to be a standard ware coffee pot, possibly 1950’s/60’s. It has a lovely green glaze that breaks away at the rim and which I think might be a type of wood ash. And although it’s a lovely pot and we only paid £12 for it, (well, IC paid £12…) it does have a hairline crack running down the side – which I only noticed when we got it home. We were really disappointed by this (!) mainly because it means we can’t use it: and pots like this are even better if they're used…

Anyway, I’m really pleased to have an example of St Ives Pottery in the house because you can learn so much from handling them: weight, dimensions, detail – even following the throwing rings with your hands helps an understanding. In the blurred photo below (which I took at the V&A during my last visit blogged here) you can see the same style pot packed in with other St Ives pieces. Much as I love the V&A, all their lovely pots are - in some ways - inaccessible; locked behind glass unused and unhandled. If only they’d let me have a few of them to take home!

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