OW: This is one of the pieces I have quite a lot of problem over, actually, because before I met Bill Newland - then I realised I really like this piece because he was such a great guy - I really hated this piece. And the interesting thing is because it seems to be part of something which, when I was growing up in my family, would have been considered very vulgar and very naff. And it is all to do with that sort of 1950s coffee bar aesthetic that came around then, that certainly in my family was not thought to be not what one should look at. But it's actually very interesting, the thing is in its technique, this tin glaze earthenware with tin glaze painting. It's a conscious rejection of all that Oriental tradition of the earlier generations of Leach and Staite-Murray and so forth, and is consciously looking at the Mediterranean tradition of the Italian and French tin glaze tradition that comes from England ...
It was actually a conscious rejection of the Far Eastern traditions adopted by Leach and Staite-Murray of the early generation and is a celebration of Mediterranean culture, of Italy and Spain and France. And of course my family were busily taking in that acceptance of the Mediterranean - Mediterranean holidays and Elizabeth David cooking - and this was made in the same year that she published 'Italian Food'. We used to go to Soho to find bits of parmesan and things like that, which were very exotic. Yet the connection between that and this aesthetic was never quite made. It's an interesting thing. I find it mostly interesting from its technical point of view, where it's looking back to. It's all made of thrown pieces, it's not a head, and that it is so much the kind of thing that the Leach and his school would have completely hated as an object. They were very popular at the time, I suppose for decorating both coffee bars themselves and people's houses who adopted that sort of thing, but it's so very, very of its period.
MP: Is it acknowledging Picasso to some extent?
OW: Yes, I'm sure that's true. The Picasso exhibition which included ceramics shortly after the war, in the country that had a big impact on a number of potters and Bill Newland's part of a whole movement, a whole group of people who at that time were quite prominent and successful, and then their history got over-washed by the success of the Leach school and so forth, and other things that came along. We've only been rediscovering it again. Yes, I suppose so. I mean, it's not actually very Picasso-like, is it? It's rather that rather sentimentalised abstraction, very typical of this period.
MP: What was it about Bill Newland that made you begin to reappraise what you thought of pots like this?
OW: [video clip starts] I suppose it's the passion that he put into it, the belief he had. I'd envisaged an entirely different kind of person who might have made this, not a big, full-blooded roaring sort of bull-like man, that he was. And seeing that in the context with his other work. And this is all saying, well... the potter... you start adjusting your views to the pot. And how difficult it is to take one object, and we don't have many pieces by Bill Newland in our collection. I hadn't seen many. They were not around to be seen until quite recently. This was kept in a store room at the V&A, it wasn't out on display. And when you see only one or two pieces like this it's very difficult to find the right context for it. [video clip ends] I love it in a sense of understanding its context, of its place, of what it meant in its time and so forth. And if I found one in a junk shop, boy, I'd snap it up and have it at home with great delight. Whether I actually like it though is a different question.
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