28 February 2013

A LARGE PLATE BY EDGAR CAMDEN AND A LITTLE BROWN BOWL BY DORA BILLINGTON



























This plate was made by Edgar Camden at the Aldermaston Pottery.  Camden worked for a long time with Alan Caiger-Smith, who founded the Aldermaston Pottery in the 1950s and who was the most outstanding practitioner of tin-glazed ceramics in Britain until his retirement a few years ago.

The picture doesn't do justice to the plate, which is huge, about 60cm wide.  It is displayed at the entrance to the ceramics section of the Stoke on Trent Museum and Art Gallery, Hanley. You must go and see it for yourself (and, indeed, the excellent collection in the museum, rivalling in quality the collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum).  Stoke have a large collection of work from the Aldermaston Pottery, demonstrating Alan Caiger-Smith's energetic making and decorating.

The museum also has a little bowl by Alan Caiger-Smith's teacher, Dora Billington (left).  When Caiger-Smith went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts, he knew that he wanted to make decorated pottery but didn't know much else.  It was Miss Billington who told him that what he wanted to make was tin-glazed pottery.  She championed this sort of work in the fifties against the dominant  style of brown and grey stoneware, as made by Bernard Leach and his school.  She excelled at tin glaze herself because she drew well and handled the brush with ease.  But that is not what you will see in Hanley.  It is a little tenmoku bowl that she made in the mid 1930s, and it is exactly what you would expect from Leach.  In The Technique of Pottery she advised anyone wanting to make a career as a studio potter to decide what technique they want to work in and then to stick at it - exactly what Caiger-Smith did, and what his assistant Camden did, producing the vigorous decoration on this plate.  But Miss Billington did not do that.  She was a teacher and had to know about all techniques, including the technique of Anglo-Oriental stoneware

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