As the Leach Pottery celebrates its 100th anniversary in St Ives we take a look back at its history via a series of photos of Bernard Leach, his assistant Shoji Hamada, and his students
The Leach Pottery in St Ives is one of the birthplaces of British Studio Pottery, a magnet for ceramicists. Its founder and namesake, Bernard Leach, is the undisputed father of the influential ceramic artform.
One of the great figures of 20th century art, Leach played a crucial role in creating an identity for artist potters across the world and, together with the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, forged a new approach to creating ceramics that was lauded for being functional, imaginative and both global and historical in its influences.
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Leach’s time in Japan – he was born in Hong Kong and brought up partly in Japan and returned there in his early twenties to become a teacher and artist – gave him a a strong sense of craftsmanship and a grounding in what might then be termed the ‘oriental’ tradition of ceramics.
He returned with Hamada to Britain in 1920 and the pair founded the Leach Pottery. The mission was to introduce a new kind of pottery that used local materials, displayed natural or even austere glazes and introduced Eastern influences and medieval motifs.
Although the 1920s and 1930s were challenging as his vision of a new earthy approach to pottery took a while to fire imaginations of critics and the public alike, the Leach Pottery became a training ground for future generations of studio potters – including Bernard’s son David Leach, Michael Cardew, William Marshall and the American craft potter Warren Mackenzie all of whom were among the many young potters who benefited from the tutelage of the indulgent and patrician Leach.
Over the years the Leach Pottery crafted a cohesive style of pottery that took in raku (low fired earthenware), Cornish slipware and a style of stoneware which is said to have been influenced by Sung Dynasty ceramics.
It is perhaps Leach’s Potter’s Book (1940), an influential manifesto and practical guide to making pottery, that finally secured a wider buying public for his handmade studio pottery and allowed the Leach Pottery’s tenure in St Ives to become a long and famous one.
Leach’s reputation as a potter, teacher and influential voice in ceramics increased as the century wore on and, together with Barbara Hepworth, his name is now synonymous with the twentieth century art scene in St Ives.
After Leach’s death aged 91 in 1979, the pottery changed hands, but it was eventually acquired by Penwith District Council as part of the Leach Restoration Project. On completion the restored Leach Pottery was handed over to the Bernard Leach (St Ives) Trust Ltd., a registered charity set up to manage the Leach Pottery as a museum, shop and studio.
Today The Leach Pottery celebrates the life, work, influences and legacy of Bernard Leach. The exhibition, gallery and shop spaces regularly showcase work by leading regional, national and international studio potters. The Studio provides training for the next generation of potters who learn by making Leach Standard Ware tableware.
A working studio in the beating heart of St Ives’ renowned artistic community, the Leach Pottery continues to be an embodiment of the pioneering nature of the artist-craftsman.
2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the iconic Pottery and to mark this milestone the Pottery has a wide and diverse schedule of commemorative activity planned as part of its Leach 100, an exciting year-long programme of happenings from Cornwall.
For more detailed information about the Leach Pottery and Leach 100 visit: www.leachpottery.com
St Ives, Cornwall
Founded in 1920 by Bernard leach and Shoji Hamada, the Leach Pottery is considered to be one of the birthplaces of British Studio Pottery. Bernard Leach, one of the great figures of 20th century art, played a crucial pioneering role in creating an identity for artist potters across the world.…