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From a very early age I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by superb examples of British pottery. The forms of Bernard Leach, Hans Coper, Lucie Rie and especially Bow pottery have had a heavy influence on the types of functional forms that I now make.
Bernard Leach
Hans Coper
Lucie Rie
Bow Porcelian Factory
Spode Pottery
  Bernard Leach
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Bernard Leach at his banding wheel
Bernard Leach is, without a doubt, the best known and most prominent of British studio potters. His friendship with Shoji Hamada and his shuttling between Japan and St Ives are well documented.

Born in Hong Kong, he was taken almost immediately to Japan by his grandparents. He came to England at the age of ten for schooling.

After a brief spell working as a clerk for the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank he attended The London School of Art.
In 1909 he returned to Japan to teach etching which he had himself learnt from Frank Brangwyn, and while there married for the first time.

After ten years of life in the East - both Japan and China - he met Hamada. The following year they both came to England and set up the Leach Pottery at St Ives.

The years between the wars were hard for Leach; he spent much time re-building kilns, experimenting with materials, travelling - but not achieving much critical or financial success.
A green fluted bowl
One of his many sketches

It was not until after the Second World War, and the publication of his first book, A Potters' Book, that he became widely recognized as a master in his field.

He continued to pot until 1972, but did not stop his ceaseless travelling. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London held an exhibition - The Art of Bernard Leach - in 1977, and in 1979 he died.

  Hans Coper
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Hans Coper, the most influential potter of the second half of the twentieth century, was born in Germany in 1920. He came to England in 1939 and was arrested the following year, as an alien, and sent to Canada.

A year later he was returned to England, and had a short career in the British Army.

After the war he met Lucie Rie and worked with her for thirteen years. In 1958 he became a naturalised British subject, and in 1959 set up his own studio in Hertfordshire.

He returned to London in 1963 and over the next twelve years taught at the Camberwell School of Art and the Royal College of Art, both in London.
Examples of Coper's Spade forms
Hans Coper bowl In 1967 he moved to Frome in Somerset. Coper died in 1981 after a seven-year illness.

Many fine potters owe much to Hans Coper's teaching, not least of whom is Lucie Rie, although few have copied his style. He will be remembered as much for his ability to improve the skills of others as for the style, originality and outstanding quality of his own work.
  Lucie Rie
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Lucie Rie was born Lucie Gomperz in Vienna in 1902. Between the ages of 20 and 26 she studied at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule (craft/technical school). On leaving the school she married Hans Rie - a marriage that lasted only fourteen years. Her success came early, and by the time she was thirty her work had been exhibited in France and Italy as well as her native Austria. Her work showed a strong feeling for form; like many other fine potters she was always aware that the nature of the pot was dictated by its purpose. In 1938 she came to England to escape the Nazis. The following year she met Bernard Leach and was somewhat confused by his well-meaning criticism of her work.
Dame Lucie Rie with some of her pots in the background
Brown and grey earthenware bowl During the war years her sense of purpose seemed to wane, but it was fully restored in 1946 when the young Hans Coper (also a fugitive from the Nazi regime) came to work with her at her London studio. Coper's intended function was to cast decorative buttons for Rie to glaze, but she soon spotted his emerging genius which rekindled her own enthusiasm and confidence. Coper worked with her until 1958.

In 1948 Lucie started working in stoneware and porcelain rather than her customary earthenware.
In the following years her work was exhibited very widely - in both solo exhibitions and doubling with Hans Coper. The pair benefited by promotion from Cyril Frankel, the ceramics expert and critic.

Rie recieved many honours, becoming an OBE in 1968, a CBE in 1981 and a Dame in 1991. She was much written about, and was the subject of a BBC film. Since her death in 1995 there has been no loss of interest in her work, and she is frequently the subject of prestigious exhibitions.
Yellow and Brown deep-footed bowl
  Bow Porcelain Factory
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Classic Bow Tureen
Also known as 'New Canton' (a name which occurs on rare inkwells), this factory was established in the 1740's and with the Chelsea works, one of the earliest British manufacturers of transparent porcelain.

The Bow factory was the largest porcelain factory in mid-18th century Britain. It specialised in Oriental-style wares, like this tureen. Typical features of most Bow pieces are that they are made form a white chalky paste, and that they have a greenish glassy glaze.

Bow specimens, especially the pre-1760 articles, are rare and desirable, but many pieces do not bear a factory mark.
  Spode Pottery
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In a Staffordshire churchyard in 1739, a six-year-old boy watched his father buried in a pauper's grave. At seven he was apprenticed to a nearby pottery. It's hard to imagine a more unpromising beginning, yet his name was to become world famous, synonymous with finest in ceramic art.

The boy was Josiah Spode I who would soon prove himself to be one of the technological and marketing geniuses in the history of ceramics.

By 1770 he acquired his own factory in Stoke-on-Trent where Spode is still produced today. He soon began to demonstrate his technical skills and creativity as well as an unusual instinct for what his customers wanted.

Spode Tower Pink pieces
The Spode Royal Warrant Over the next thirty years Spode revolutionized the English ceramics industry. By perfecting the technique of transfer printing on earthenware from hand-engraved copper plates, he made the commercial production of lower-cost, consistent-quality wares possible. It was an overnight sensation and was quickly adopted by other English potters.

Spode was the first to recognize the potential of North America when he appointed the Hudson's Bay Company as his agent. Immediately after the Revolutionary War, Spode appointed agents in the major American cities. By the turn of the century North America was Spode's largest customer and has remained so ever since. Consequently Spode has been unusually sensitive to American tastes.

By the 18th century, continental porcelain was the rage among the ladies of the manor; however, English clays would not produce a body as white as these. In his search for a comparable body, Josiah Spode in 1797 discovered the formula for Fine Bone China. Its brilliant whiteness and delicate translucency far surpassed any continental porcelain and inspired new standards of artistry, skill and finish. Spode I did not live to see his most famous discovery brought to market by his son, Spode II.

Spode shapes trace their lineage to the classic forms of Georgian silver. When the rich surface decoration for which Spode is so famous is added, the patterns have a uniqueness and character unequaled by any other.

Spode received the first of its Royal Warrants in 1806 and continues to supply Royal families to this day.

From generation to generation, Spode has been handed down by families and collectors who appreciate the joy of owning the original. And so it is today.

Spode Blue Willow pieces
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"In a career which spanned almost 70 years, Lucie Rie gave ceramics a new meaning."
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