TH: Well, having the pots on the table like this, you want to pick them up and it's always a surprise because this is incredibly light. I'm beginning to develop a theory about pots; there are pots that are meant to be held and there are pots you are meant to look at from afar. And in the second category I would place this pot and Hans Coper's pots. They're also pots that photograph very well for whatever reason, and Liz Fritsch's pots do photograph well, partly by virtue of the fact that they are flattened and they're kind of playing games with our sense of the roundness and hollowness of a pot. So to have it actually here and holding it is a slightly unsatisfactory appearance. It's the kind of pot that you want to be looking at.
And of course this is a solitary example of her work, but quite often she made pots that were meant to be seen in groups which, worked extraordinarily well. They would play off against each other. It's as if she's... I don't know... the actual hollowness or pot shape is not of enormous importance, although it's hard to think how it would work in any other way. But, but the important thing is the extraordinary use of colour and the way in which it reminds you of other art forms: fresco for example, or musical notation. It's curious, these pots have been on stamps. [video clip starts] She is one of our leading living potters and yet I now realise how much I've consumed them through photography, and how absolutely wonderful they look as photographs, particularly when they're seen in groups, and how it's a rather odd experience to be holding it. You wouldn't get a huge buzz out of holding a painting, and it's a bit the same with this. The fact that it's a pot... it's undeniably some kind of vessel, but the pleasures you associate with vessels aren't really on offer here. [video clip ends]
MP: Do you think it's of its time?
TH: Well, yes, I think yes, very much. She's part of a generation of potters who were at the Royal College of Art and were, I think, taught by Hans Coper. And many of them were women and I think they used pottery as a vehicle for all sorts of other activities. It's conceivable that some of them might have gone into other departments like sculpture and painting, but pottery at that moment seemed to offer a lot of freedom. And it's of its time, I suppose, in that it's so eclectic, you know... what is it exactly? It's a synthesis of so many different ideas. And in fact I'm trying to think, what was happening in painting at about that time? But certainly those earlier pots made by figures like Elizabeth Fritsch and Carol McNicholl in terms of what was going on in the design world were truly post-modern, they were quite a powerful reaction against good design and the kind of black box mentality that was still held sway in the design world. So perhaps you should see the pots in the context of the Royal College of Art and its design school, and a ceramics department that until David Queensbury took over had very much been a place where you learned to design for industry. And these remarkable, strange pots that started coming out of the Royal College stand for a loosening up and also a reaction against the boringness of most design at that period.
MP: Do you think that America had an influence on the Royal College at that period?
TH: I suppose that no-one was ever very forthcoming about that. They must obviously have seen American pots, but these are so much more exquisite, and in this example, subtle. American pots may have suggested the possibilities, but [what] we actually have here is completely different in warmth. I wouldn't say it's all specifically British or anything, but it's sort of European, I suppose. I don't know. Well, it's hand-built and you'd think of hand-building as being a very organic way of making, but it's almost like this is just a vehicle to carry this optical design and a little, rather witty joke about what the eye can take in. It's the sort of joke which actually always works best in the form of a photograph, because then there's a real illusion created.
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