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Bernard Leach


circa 1960

4.375 x 3.75 x 3.75 in.
Gift of Richard A. Harrison

This vessel demonstrates Leach’s blend of Japanese and British traditions, with a simple, symmetrical utilitarian form embellished with a controlled line pattern framing a more loose, abstracted fish. The simplistic, functional approach was meant to stand apart from industrially made ceramics, therefore a user would know it is handmade and it is intended to be used for everyday purposes. The clay material is stoneware, which is the most durable, being fired at a higher temperature and is ideal for functional, utilitarian pottery.

British potter, Bernard Leach, is one of the most influential figures for ceramics, especially pottery, in the United States over the last one-hundred years. He is an exception to be included in this exhibition, which focuses on ceramics created in this country, but his influence is so pronounced that it is impossible not to include him. Many artists in Unearthed read his “A Potter’s Book,” first published in 1940 and for many years it was considered the potter’s “bible,” providing guidance on Korean, Japanese, Chinese and English traditions of pottery with recipes for glazes, information about forms, clay bodies and more. However, it was his extensive travels where he taught these philosophies and approaches to pottery that made the most significant impact. During the 1950s, he traveled throughout the United States with his close friends, Japanese master potter Shoji Hamada, and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi. Together, they did pottery throwing and firing demonstrations, shared philosophies of Zen Buddhism and the Folk Craft Movement, or Mingei
, in Japan, and provided a window into cultural traditions that potters have previously never seen.

Bernard Leach was born in Hong Kong and lived there until the age of three before his family returned to England. After studying etching at the Slade School in Fine Art in London, he decided to return to Japan as an adult with the intent of teaching etching. Shortly after arriving he was introduced to raku firing at a party, and immediately changed his course to apprentice in Japan from 1910-20 as a potter.

Katie Lee Koven

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