AB: [video clip starts] It's such a treat to see it for real, actually; I've only ever seen a photograph. And it so much speaks of its time, it's so much a 50s, optimistic, post-war object. There's something about the tin glaze; this is the tin glaze all over it with oxides painted on top and then scratched through, I think, or maybe it's resisted, I'm not sure, but he's got a manganese colour under clean white. And that just sums up somehow the kind of coffee bar, and the Heal's exhibitions, and the Elizabeth David cookery books, and the idea of lots of people having suddenly travelled when they were in the war and knowing more about Europe, and it's full of that vitality. [video clip ends] Having been to the Mediterranean and looking at Greece, it's lovely, it's a lovely decorative object. The 50s is a very difficult aesthetic to really entirely line up with. But it's so long ago now, I mean, I was born, I suppose. What date is it?
AB: Yes, I'd have been a little girl then. For me the ways in which he's choosing to stylise the animal form in terms of throwing, all these parts coming together, which are sort of corny in a way, but for its time, it's very strong.
MP: Am I right that you knew Bill?
AB: Yes, I knew him when I was a kid because my father and he worked in the same institute, the Institute of Education. My father was the Head of English and he ran the pottery. So I had quite early connections with [him], he would send home encouraging things to do in my father's briefcase, bits of chalk to carve and bricks and stuff. So for me he means a lot because he was my model of a potter being a way of life, being a thing you could do really. So I didn't ever work with him until I was perhaps fourteen or so and I went to work at the Institute sometimes in half term.
A real facilitator, you know someone who encouraged enormous numbers of people to find what was creative for them, and would always cut into the bullshit in a very direct and very, very non-stuffy [way]. So a very forceful, forceful person. I didn't know him really well ever, but I sort of encountered him, and I did feel he was looking out for me when I was a student as well. [He] encouraged me to apply for the Central rather than any other course, and so on. [He] went through my portfolio when I came back from Leeds and Foundation. So, no, he's been a sort of mentor. I think mentor's the word now, an American word, isn't it?
MP: So did you go to the Central?
AB: I did, yes. He wasn't teaching any more, but his flavour was still there very much. So I will have been taught this kind of technique probably by John Colbeck, or somebody else, or Bonnie van der Wettering. But all those sort of ideas and recipes and layering glazes and scratching through scraffito and all that, that was very much on the curriculum.
MP: Have you any idea why tin glaze was the thing for people like Newland and Vergette and Margaret Hine?
AB: Well, I think it must link to Picasso in some way. It's not what he always used, but certainly [Picasso] gave himself the show at the Arts Council in 1950, I think it was, [which] had a very big impact on them. And it gives you a kind of painterly ground, doesn't it? It's something to do with painting that they wanted a white, a good white. And not just Picasso, the whole majolica tradition, which was about colour and vibrancy and spontaneity really in a way. But the ...
MP: Sorry, does the fact that you knew Bill, or Lucie with the previous pot, does it affect the way you engage with the work?
AB: It's difficult to be absolutely sure. It could be the other way around. No, it couldn't be the other way around with Bill, but I could have wanted to seek out a way of getting to know Lucie because I liked the work already. I think it's on the side, it's important, but it's important more in building up other layers of feeling. I can relate to objects when I don't know the person. This tradition again is connecting more directly into things that I care about and do than the Oriental tradition, or indeed the way that it was mixed with English. So there's a sort of urban thing in both this and the Lucie Rie that I connect with more easily.
MP: And I suppose it's less serious and more witty and ...
AB: Yes, it's playful, isn't it? Very playful. And that was something that he really stressed, that it was meant to be about pleasure and sensuality and enjoyment and fun, and decoration was to delight.
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