8 December 2017


One of the Hungarian ceramists illustrated in Gordon Forsyth’s 20th Century Ceramics is Lili Márkus, 1900-1960 (pictured above), who I was not familiar with. Lászlo Hradszki drew my attention to the catalogue of the exhibition of her work that was mounted in Budapest and Glasgow in 2012, which is available online.

Márkus had had a brief but successful career until she and her family left Hungary in 1939 and came to England, where they lived in Derbyshire. Her career contrasts with that of her ceramic contemporaries Margit Kovács, who adapted to the Communist regime and remained popular until her death, Eva Zeisel, who emigrated to the United States, where she also found success and had a very long life, and other Hungarian emigrés, notable Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Erno Goldfinger and Marcel Breuer, who also had successful careers. In her provincial isolation Márkus is comparable to Greta Marks, another ceramist of Jewish origin, who left Germany and settled in Stoke-on-Trent, but who, understandably, never adapted to the British ceramic industry.

30 November 2017



Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. I have not gone away. We have builders at home, who have turned everything upside down, and next week it will get worse when the roof comes off and the back of the house is knocked down. Thank goodness we got the central heating fixed before that happened.

In the studio all I'm doing is repetitive glaze tests and packing parcels to send to galleries before Christmas.

I hope to get to the Modigliani exhibition at Tate Modern in due course. He is a painter I have never liked, and hearing the curator talk about his social circumstances and bohemian life reinforced my suspicion that he is artistically negligible. But I keep an open mind.

13 November 2017


Delft tiles in Chelsea Old Town Hall

I've been exhibiting my ceramics at the Old Chelsea Town Hall over the weekend at the craft fair Handmade in Britain. Down the street in Kings Road is "The Chelsea Potter", the pub named in honour of William De Morgan, who used to work in the area.

The old town hall was built in 1908, and in the café is a fireplace with pretty Delft tiles (pictured). Where do they come from? Are they antique Dutch tiles, which they certainly look like, or are they reproductions? I don't know of any English pottery that made Delft-style tiles c.1900, so my guess is they're Dutch, especially as the Dutch, according to Alan Caiger-Smith, made 800 million of them between 1600 and 1800.

8 November 2017


I've just finished packing for Handmade in Britain at Chelsea Old Town Hall, the renowned, high-end contemporary craft and design fair which is being held over the weekend. I'm launching a new range of tableware there, inspired by Mid Century Modern and made in three toning colours, yellow, grey and turquoise. Above are three espresso cups from the range.

Chelsea has been the location for pre-Christmas craft fairs for many years, once run by the Crafts Council, but relaunched ten years ago by Handmade, who are now established promoters.

Handmade in Britain, Chelsea Old Town Hall,
10 - 12 November, 11am to 6pm daily
King's Rd, London SW3 5EE

3 November 2017


This is a commissioned tile panel I made recently. The design, based on my "Berry" pattern, was devised in consultation with the customer. The tiles are hand-made.

29 October 2017


My preparation for Handmade in Britain is in on track, so I went to see the Rachel Whiteread retrospective at Tate Britain (above).

Whiteread has shown remarkable consistency over the thirty years since her Slade graduation, casting objects and the space around them to give us surprising views of the familiar world. Her high profile works, like House (1993) - the concrete cast of the inside of a house in east London - are familiar, but this exhibition introduced us to less familiar works, made in a series of major preoccupations during the course of her career. Her recent work comprises resin casts of doors and papier maché casts of fences and sheds walls. I particularly liked the assemblages of small objects on shelves made between 2005 and 2010 in materials of different colour, like Lineup (below), reminiscent proximately of Edmund de Waal and ultimately of Giorgio Morandi.

Whiteread began casting in papier maché and plaster and advanced to concrete, but she has cast in just about every possible material and has shown tremendous concentration and impressive craft. For the larger pieces she has drawn on specialist assistance, notably in House, which is described in a contemporary film of the construction process.

House was produced at the suggestion of James Lingwood of Artangel, which works with artists and  funders to produce large creations outside galleries. "We knew the sculpture would generate interest from the beginning," Lingwood said, but  "House was a lightning conductor". It divided opinion among both critics and the local population. Andrew Graham-Dixon called it "one of the most extraordinary and imaginative public sculptures created by an English artist this century", Brian Sewell described it as "meritless gigantism".

The film of house featured the fabricators who are essential to much contemporary art. Glen Adamson has said that the contribution of fabricators is not just overlooked but hidden because it is so important that it may reduce the reputation of the artist. Their role is different from that of bronze casters in traditional sculpture because traditional sculptors made their own models, and the relation of fabricators to artists is more like the relation of builder to architect. If you look carefully at the film of House, you will see that the construction was by Tarmac.

23 October 2017


Photo by Layton Thompson
The tag line on my blog is "I thought, I saw, I went, I made."  I haven't posted for a few days because it's been mainly "I made". This is the busy time for makers and I'm preparing for  Hand Made in Britain, the contemporary craft and design fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall, London, Friday 10 to Sunday 12 November 2017, and I haven't been out of my studio much.

My Berry pattern (above) will be on show, but I'm developing a new range of glazes which I'll be showing for the first time there. The development was halted because the elements in my test kiln failed and had to be replaced - of course, elements always fail at an inconvenient time - and the new glazes have not been perfected yet.

I'll also be showing with the London Potters at Morley College from 21 November to 13 December. I joined them this year and mentioned their AGM in a recent post. One of our members, Jeremy Nichols, has recently been elected chair of the Craft Potters Association, following Richard Phethean, who has just stepped down.

15 October 2017


The London Potters had their annual meeting at Richmond Adult Community College yesterday, with a talk and demonstration by Richard Phethean, who was one of my teachers.

I asked the way at reception. "Past the band and turn right." I stopped a while at the band (above), students of the Richmond Jazz School, who were playing a jazz arrangement of Pharrell Williams' Happy. Most of the musicians had grey hair. Many of the London Potters had grey hair too - they're a mixture of professional ceramists, keen amateurs and people who just like pottery. They all seemed happy. They're my generation.

I thought about the old people I knew when I was a child. They grew old earlier than people do today and many of them seemed to be miserable and to dislike children. They grumbled about authority but were powerless and compliant.

We are really the most fortunate generation. Anyone born in Britain after 1943 didn't experience war, didn't have to do national service, experienced rising living standards (with the standard of living roughly doubling every thirty years), extensive state provision of public services until they were in early middle age and had a good company pension when they retired. They generally have good health, an optimistic disposition and an active retirement playing the saxophone or making pottery. When they are in retirement homes they won't be entertained with renditions of My Old Man Says Follow the Van, they will be doing Zumba classes.

14 October 2017


Richard Miller (above), whose exhibit at Hatfield Art in Clay I wrote about earlier, came to talk to the Dacorum Potters Guild yesterday about his pottery and in particular his tile business, Froyle Tiles. The tiles are his bread-and-butter, which allows him freedom to do his own creative ceramics, but he is one of the leading producers of artisan tiles in this country, gets a continuous stream of commissions from large commercial concerns and he never has to advertise. Many of the plain-glazed stoneware tiles you saw in Fired Earth were made by Froyle Tiles. Froyle made the tiles for Walford East tube station in EastEnders and the finished tiles for 24 Savile Row, a high profile development in the West End.

Richard and his two colleagues are amazingly versatile and willing to take on projects using new techniques, though after twelve years they now have a wide repertoire – plain glazed tiles, painted faience, moulded surfaces and a variety of glaze effects. The EastEnders job required a flat Burgundy-coloured glaze and then, in imitation of old tube stations, dabbed and painted enamels to create a distressed and weathered look, calling for a third firing. The Savile Row contract, directed by Kate Malone, made use of German tiles and several crystalline glazes, developed after lengthy research.

24 Savile Row
Richard is engaging and informal, coming to the Guild in shorts on this balmy October evening. He says he works fast, which is obviously one of the reasons why his company is so successful, but he is a considerable artist and the craft skills of Froyle Tiles are second to none.

11 October 2017


We went to the Nunnery Gallery in Bow yesterday evening (above) to see the paintings of the East London Group and for the launch of East End Vernacular, a book about these pictures and other documentary paintings of the area, published by the blogger of Spitalfields Life.

The East London Group were working class painters who came together at the Bethnal Green Institute in the 1920s and were taught by John Cooper, also at times by Walter Sickert and Phyllis Bray. They painted what they saw and knew well, the streets and interiors of their locality. They were good and achieved some national success before the Second World War, though usually with some condescension to their class and lack of education. Some continued to paint after the war, hurriedly trying to record a disappearing East End.

Walter Steggles (1908-1997) The Scullery, 1927

The Nunnery is part of the Bow arts centre, which exemplifies the changes that have occurred here since the 1970s, with the coming of new nationalities and cultures, middle class artists and intellectuals.

Albert Turpin (1900-1964), Sally, c.1930

The show is curated by Emma-Louise Williams and Michael Rosen, who is an energetic promoter of the vernacular. On sale in the bookshop is his memoir So They Call You Pisher, which records his home life with Harold and Connie Rosen, who had a huge influence on him. They were left-wing academics, they studied language as it's spoken and advocated the use of the demotic in English teaching, which Michael practices in his visits to schools. I liked the funny chapter in his book about his school teachers, because I was in his year at school and they were my teachers too.

Albert Turpin, Lakeview Estate, undated

This picture of the Lakeview Estate is undated, but it must have been painted after 1958, when Turpin was about sixty. The estate was designed by the avant-garde architect Berthold Lubetkin, most famous for the Penguin Pool at London Zoo, whose motto was "nothing is too good for ordinary people". Lubetkin gave up architecture after fruitless battles with conservative town planners and turned to pig farming instead.

The author of East End Vernacular does not sign his blog or give his name. He only calls himself The Gentle Author - I suppose that's how he signed his book. He said that people from outside the East End are always surprised when they discover its culture, but he couldn't imagine a book called "West End Vernacular", nor even "North London Vernacular."

The Working Artist: The East London Group
The Nunnery, 181 Bow Road, London E3 2SJ
29 September 2017 - 17 December 2017
Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm