Neil Brownsword on Lucie Rie
NB: I suppose I'm drawn ... Is it terra sigilata, the surface, or ... It looks like a ...
NB: Right. There again I almost ... you see, part of seeing these things, it always makes me reflect back to prior things like the Xing. I suppose I've got more warmth to those things as objects, especially some of the Eelers Brothers' red ware which, again, you spark immediate associations with. But just comparing the finesse of some of those Eelers Brothers pieces to the finesse of these things in the flesh, again, there's no comparison really. I suppose some of the shapes, again that veer towards the Bauhaus and stuff, I suppose that's an appeal. [video clip ends] But again, looking at it in today's context, I don't know. I don't know what to say really.
MP: What would you say to a student who came to you with a piece of work like that?
NB: I'd say, ''Go back to your sketchbook, start to think about...' I don't know, I'd just try and bring out people's individuality in them, whatever they're doing, whether it be product or you expression, but I'd try and stretch them as far as they could in terms of what they were doing. Now to me that doesn't. How old was she when she was making this piece? Thirty?
NB: Yes. I don't know, it's hard to say, isn't it? You have good pieces and you have bad pieces, and maybe there are things upstairs and I'd say, 'Yeah, that was a kind of interesting piece you know, that strikes more of a chord.' But to pick up on these things which have been pre-selected it's difficult for you to ... I would have preferred personally to have free access and gone and picked ten pieces upstairs. I don't think any of the pieces I would have picked would have been from this period of time. They would have probably been medieval, a lot of Staffordshire, 17th/18th century pieces. I think things which have got a kind of resonance for what I do as a maker, really. Now to me this doesn't. There are some things upstairs which I think are a wonderful use of material, they speak about clay, but for me again this doesn't really hold any kind of value.
MP: I suppose the idea is to get different people with different opinions talking about the same objects, and the idea is to have ten objects that vaguely chronologically represent generally accepted important figures in the Studio Pottery movement. So what you've had so far is an early Leach piece, then a Staite-Murray, and they were very different but working at the same time, and then you've got a European coming and making something in the European tradition. So the idea is to try and represent that. Whether for some people that's obviously going to have resonances and for other people it's just not. But it's equally valid to say, 'It's of no relevance to me' as it is to say, 'It's sublime and wonderful.'
NB: Yes. I suppose again it's just something different from that Leach aesthetic of that period, isn't it? It's something of a different kind of lean towards the Oriental and references to the Medieval, kind of what the Leach and the Staite-Murray were. But I can only respond to stuff from the way I respond to stuff . And in the museum I would probably, if we could go round with that camera I could go and take you to pieces and chat for half an hour about certain pieces, but these pieces have just got no kind of interest at all.
MP: So you're not going to take that one home with you then?
MP: Oh right. That's a shame isn't it?
NB: And again I was reading something what Ewen Henderson had written, I think it was a show I saw in 1995 or 1996 when I'd just left the RCA, called 'Pandora's Box', which kind of stored a bit of stuff into it. And I think he commented on how over-rated that Lucie Rie was, you know. And I suppose he'd got his foot in his camp, because that exhibition was criticised for him just including his mates and one particular way of working. But I'd much rather go for the kind of anonymous objects you know than these things, which are more honest in a way. And I'm not saying that there was no honesty in these objects, but one seems to think when you've got this kind of label around you [that] you can just do anything, and maybe you can.
It's what draws me back to the thing at Stoke really, when we did the filming there and just seeing these people, it was just so humble doing what they do everyday. And maybe it's just a job to them, but you acknowledge something, some truth there in what they're doing. I am a bit skeptical about people, especially Staite-Murray who'd been worshipped. And then you see something like what we'd got there in the flesh and you know, gosh, well what was the fuss about. How did people define quality between one Staite-Murray and another Staite-Murray. Do they say it's all good or do they you know?
MP: I suppose if I was going to be devil's advocate I'd say that in 1930 you might have had Leach, Cardew, Staite-Murray and not even by then Rie, you may have had three or four figures who had a profile and that was who you had, that was it.
MP: It's not like now where you've got dozens of makers. It was a completely new field.