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10 October 2019The Ethical versus the Expressive: The story of British studio pottery.
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The Ethical versus the Expressive: The story of British studio pottery. Oliver Watson Thursday 10 October 2019

The making of pottery has since time immemorial ranged from the purely functional to the purely decorative or artistic. In the second half of the twentieth century, studio potters in the UK faced each other in sometimes acrimonious debate over the nature of “real” pottery. Should it conform to the views of Bernard Leach and his followers in taking an ethical stance in the making of honest, traditional functional ware? Or could it be a fine art, as expressive and free in its form as any fine art, as demonstrated in the bright colours and modernistic shapes of Lucie Rie’s vases or Hans Coper’s sculptures? Opinions differed widely and were argued with great conviction.

This debate in various guises goes back much further - to the days of William Morris, to the advocates of industrial design, and is greatly complicated and enriched for example by Lucie Rie’s claim to be “just a potter”, or Bernard Leach’s claim and practice as a fine artist.

This lecture will show how these different strands are intertwined, and how they combined to produce a landscape of enormous variety and vitality in the making of studio pottery in Britain over the last century.

This lecture will be richly illustrated, and a small number of original pots from the Leach pottery and by “expressive” potters will be available to see (and possibly handle!).