About me

Photo ©Layton Thompson

I am a potter and writer.

When I was nine I was fascinated by an article in an encyclopaedia, "Pottery: For Use and Ornament". The historical survey went over my head, but the technical explanation interested me. This interest was stimulated by a film of The Potter's Wheel that the BBC put on in the intervals between programmes. Those who watched television in the 1950s all remember it, but I now realise that the potter, Georges Aubertin, wasn't much good.

I did A-level art but decided to read history and politics rather than go to art school. At Keele university, near the the North Staffordshire Potteries, I spent a lot of time in the art room trying to make pottery on the wheel, and after university trained at the Rodmell Pottery with Judith Partridge. I was lucky: while some apprentices worked for nothing, Judith paid me, but only just enough to live on. As I couldn’t see any prospect of starting my own pottery without savings, I developed a sideline in public administration for twenty-five years, ending up as head of economic development at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. I kept up pottery as a hobby and took a BA in Ceramics at Harrow, University of Westminster, in 2009. I set up a studio in St Albans and now exhibit throughout the UK. You can see my work on my  website.

I'm one of the few ceramists in Britain using the technique of tin glaze, whose opaque, white surface lends itself to my style of free brush decoration. Tin glaze reached its height in the Hispano-Moresque wares of medieval Spain, the maiolica of Renaissance Italy and 17th century Delft but it was displaced by Josiah Wedgwood’s discovery of a practical white-firing clay. Craft potters revived it in the 20th century. My style is modern but I get inspiration from the ceramics I've seen in museums around the world.

I write about applied arts, especially European applied arts from 1850 to the present, with an emphasis on ceramics. From my practice of making decorated tin-glaze pottery, I became interested in Dora Billington (1890-1968), a potter and teacher who went against the Leach-inspired mainstream and brought her students into contact with European and factory-made pottery, and tin-glazed pottery in particular. Billington’s long career spanned Japonisme, Art Pottery, Anglo-Oriental stoneware and the New Ceramics of the 1960s. Other potters I'm researching include Richard Lunn, who set up the first studio pottery course in a British art school, at the RCA in 1901, and Wilfrid Norton, a figurative ceramist inspired by Anthroposophy, who was well-known in the 1930s and ran the pottery department at Camberwell school of art, but who is now forgotten.

I am a trustee of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. I was winner of the St Albans Museums Trust Prize in 2013 for ceramics shown at UH Galleries and received the Judge’s Award for my entry in the London Potters’ 2017 exhibition at Morley College.


Max said...

Nice work. I just found your blog searching for Ogata Kenzan. I am a potter in Texas. butlerpottery.com
With your permission I would like to put a link to your page on my blog.

Marshall Colman said...

Thank you, Max. You are welcome to create a link to my blog.

Angela said...

Enjoyed reading about you and your work and influences Marshall. Found your blog via Herts Visual Arts Twitter feed and looking forward to seeing your work at the open studios. Best wishes Angela

John Hendrie said...

I inadvertently stumbled across your blog during a google search for George Aubertin,
I was sad to see that you described him as “not very good” with no explanation to back up your view. I assume that you are referring to his ability as a potter and not his personal qualities.
I knew George Aubertin. I had the privilege to meet him in the 1960’s when I was in my 20’s and he was in his 70’s.
He was the son of a head gardener and the family lived in the village of Bullwick in Northants. He left school in 1904 at the age of 14 and took up an apprenticeship with the Potters Arts Guild in Compton, Surrey some 120 miles from home. He lived ‘on-site’ along with 11 other apprentices. The enterprise was started by Mary Seton Watts with support from her husband G. F. Watts.
George worked at Compton Potteries for the whole of his working life with the exception of his military service during WW1. Much of what was made at the potteries was sold through Liberties of London with some going to the large private estates including the Crown. I can’t imagine that the work from the pottery produced at the time was “not very good” . It still sells at Sotherbys for very high prices.
He was asked by the BBC to help with the interlude piece. He was not instructed to make a particular item but to simply keep working on the clay. He did so until it became unworkable and collapsed into a heap.
As for his personal qualities I can only say that he was one of the finest men that I have ever met. He never sought fame or fortune and took the view that merit will always be rewarded. He lived a quiet and simple life along with his wife and three daughters, one of which is still alive and would be absolutely distraught if she learnt that people that didn’t even know her father were describing him as “not very good’ simply on the evidence of a short interlude film.