When Bernard Leach (1887-1979) set about founding the Leach Pottery in St Ives, he brought with him not only his good friend and mentor Shoji Hamada, but over a decade of intense practice and learning from his years in Japan.
What Cornwall couldn’t offer so readily were similar facilities of clay or even wood to fire the kilns, but Leach and his potters turned to the British tradition of pottery and amalgamated knowledge from the East with their locality in the West. The ‘brown pots’ and gorgeous earthenware hark back to a pre-industrial time when form and function were largely unembellished – inspired among others by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th Century.
Leach kept designs simple for ranges of affordable tableware, which the pottery still produces in the same location and manner. He expressed his artistic experiments in exhibition pieces with beautiful oriental-inflected scenes, traditionally glazed. Note how, often with urns and vases, Leach left the feet unglazed, a reverential nod to the earth and clay around him. He explained: ‘[the] foot is a ringing symbol, here do I touch the earth, on this I stand, my Terminus.’