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About the project

This project was the result of a collaboration between the National Electronic & Video Archive of the Crafts (NEVAC) and the V&A Museum's Department of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass. The project was funded by the University of the West of England's Bristol School of Art, Media and Design.

The project was initiated by Matthew Partington, V&A Research Fellow in the Applied Arts at the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE). As part of his fellowship he received funding from UWE's Bristol School of Art, Media & Design to conduct a series of interviews around the 20th-century ceramics collection at the V&A. Matthew is also Director of NEVAC, the National Electronic & Video Archive of the Crafts, which exists to interview craftspeople talking about their lives and work.

Why these pots?

The aim was to choose pots which represented some of the different trends in studio ceramics in the 20th century. The inspiration for the project was an interview conducted at the V&A in 1998 with Colin Pearson who chose a range of pots from different periods to discuss. For this proejct the other pots were added to give a more rounded feel for British studio ceramics in the 20th century. Some of the pots are perhaps not the best examples of the artists work, (particularly the Bernard Leach teacp and saucer), but this was largely an attempt at continuity with the earlier Colin Pearson interview. Only a vast group of objects would have been able to truly represent 20th-century British ceramics so the choice below was taken in the full knowledge that there are gaps. Also, it could be argued that better examples of a particular artists work exist in the V&A collection.

'Big White Jug', by Alison Britton OBE

'Big White Jug', by Alison Britton OBE

'Cider Jar', by Michael Cardew

'Cider Jar', by Michael Cardew

            'Pot', by Hans Coper

      ''Pot', by Hans Coper

'Optical Pot', by Elizabeth Fritsch

'Optical Pot', by Elizabeth Fritsch

Bernard Leach, cup and saucer, earthenware, height 67mm, width 132mm, about 1920-24. Museum no. C.84, a-1972

'Cup & Saucer', by Bernard Leach

Gillian Lowndes, 'Cup on Base', stoneware with metal elements, height 180mm, width 233mm, 1986. Museum no. C.39-1987

'Cup on Base', by Gillian Lowndes

       William Newland, 'Bull', earthenware, height 359mm, width 377mm, 1954. Museum no. Circ.57-1954

      'Bull', by William Newland

       Lucie Rie, teapot and jug, earthenware, height (teapot) 111mm, width (teapot) 82mm, made in Vienna, about 1936. Museum no. C.34-1982

      'Teapot & Jug', by Lucie Rie

   Richard Slee, 'Cornucopia', earthenware, height 234mm, width 355mm, 1983. Museum no. C.253-1983

  'Cornucopia', by Richard Slee

William Staite-Murray, 'Madonna', stoneware, height 560mm, width 184mm, about 1930. Museum no. C.60-1976

'Madonna', by William Staite-Murray


Why these interviewees?

Funding for the project was for six people to be interviewed. The aim was to include makers, writers and curators. As a result the then curator of Ceramics at the V&A, Oliver Watson, was chosen not least because he had personally acquired some of the pots for the Museum collection. Tanya Harrod was chosen as a hugely respected writer on the crafts; Emmanuel Cooper as both maker, writer and editor of 'Ceramic Review'; Alison Britton as ceramist, writer and educator and as the maker of one of the pots chosen for discussion; Clare Curneen and Neil Brownsword as exciting young makers, both of whose work has recently been acquired for the V&A's collection. It was felt that the older generation of interviewees would have an affinity or understanding of the pots that the younger makers may not. This did indeed turn out to be the case and it may indicate that the latest generation of makers take their inspiration from beyond the world of ceramics and the work of the major ceramists of the early and mid-20th century no longer hold so much of a resonance for them.

Alison Britton

Born in Harrow, Middlesex in 1948, Alison Britton OBE studied at Leeds College of Art, Central School of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art between 1967 - 1973. Internationally known for her work, curatorial activities and writing, Britton continues to be the leading spokesperson for a generation of ceramicists. She has work in many public collections, including the V&A,the Stedelijk Museum, the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Museé des Artes Decoratifs in Paris and Powerhouse in Sydney. She is currently a Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art.

Neil Brownsword

Neil Brownsword was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1970. He studied 3D Design, Ceramics at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, before going on to complete his MA at the Royal College of Art in 1995. He is currently working on his practice-based PhD as well as teaching on the ceramics award at Buckingham Chilterns University College in High Wycombe.

Emmanuel Cooper

Emmanuel Cooper is a potter with an international reputation. He is the author of many books on ceramics, his definitive biography of Bernard Leach was published in 2003 (Yale University Press). He is editor of Ceramic Review. Since 1999 he has been Visiting Professor of Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art.

Claire Curneen

Claire Curneen is one of the leading ceramic artists currently working in Britain. Born in Ireland, Claire studied at Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork before completing a post-graduate diploma at the University of Ulster, Belfast. Following an MA in ceramics at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), Claire recently took up a lecturing post at UWIC. Her work has been exhibited throughout the world and is held in many of the world's major ceramic collections.

Tanya Harrod

Author of The Crafts in Britain in the 20th Century, and numerous articles in newspapers and journals, Tanya is one of the most influential writers on the crafts in Britain today. Trained as an art historian Tanya has been a Visiting Professor in the Department of Design History at the Royal College of Art since 1999.

Oliver Watson

Author of Studio Pottery, 1993, Oliver was a Senior Curator at the V&A Museum and at the time of the interview in 2001 he was in charge of the Department of Ceramics and Glass. He is now Director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

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