Ceramics


The Leach Pottery is considered by many to be the birthplace of British studio pottery. One of the great figures of 20th century art, Bernard Leach played a crucial pioneering role in creating an identity for pottery artists across the world. His pottery, established in Cornwall, England, in 1920, continues to produce Leach Standard Ware today and trains a new international generation of studio pottery artists under the direction of Senior Potter, Roelof Uys.

Bernard Howell Leach was born Hong Kong on January 5th 1887.  He spent his early years in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, moving with his father’s career, before returning to finish his schooling in the UK.  After studying at The Slade School of Art and the London School of Art in Kensington, Leach decided to return to Japan, where he planned to teach etching.  But, after attending a raku party with a Japanese friend in 1911, Leach found that ceramics were his calling.  He studied ceramics in both Japan and China, developing his own style based on traditional Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English slipware.

In 1920 Leach returned to the UK with his great friend and collaborator Hamada Shoji.  Together these two men established a pottery at St. Ives in Cornwall, where it remains to this day.  Bernard’s son, David, took over running the pottery after the Second World War while his father continued to travel, study, teach and collaborate with artists and potters in Scandinavia, the USA and Japan.  In 1961, the Arts Council of Britain acknowledged Bernard Leach as a “master craftsman” and he received the CBE in 1962.  In 1966, he was awarded Order of the Sacred Treasure 2nd Class in Japan – the highest honour given to a non-national. Bernard lost his sight suddenly in 1974, which brought his potting days to an end.  He died in 1979 at the age of 92.

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The Leach Pottery continues to produce Leach Standard Ware and Leach Porcelain Ware today, as well as providing a forum for individual potters to develop and display their own works.

Leach Standard Ware is thrown on the wheel by The Leach Pottery’s international team of production potters, volunteers and apprentices using stoneware clay from John Doble’s in St. Agnes, Cornwall – much the same clay as was used in the original Leach Standard Ware production.  The range of glazes are selected and developed for their quality and colour.  The pots are fired to 1280 degrees Celsius, resulting in a dense and durable product.  During the firing, the amount of oxygen in the kiln’s atmosphere is reduced and the flame pulls oxygen from the clay and glazes instead, infusing the glazes with deep, rich, iron tones.

Leach Porcelain Ware is a specialized range hand thrown using high quality porcelain.  Known for its whiteness and translucency, porcelain is lighter and more delicate than stoneware but just as strong and durable.  The pots in this range are decorated with a Chinese style ying ching glaze and the rim of each piece is then brushed with iron oxide.  A small percentage of iron oxide in the ying ching gives the glaze a soft translucent blue tone, accentuating the qualities of the porcelain beneath.  The pots are fired to 1280 degrees Celsius using the same process as the stoneware range.

The Leach Pottery is among the most respected and influential potteries in the world. Scores of potters, students and apprentices, from across the world have come to the Leach Pottery to train, creating a uniquely international environment in the heart of Cornwall and maintaining the Pottery’s creative principle of East/West exchange.