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TH: Yes, [it's] another surprise to actually come physically into contact with it. I didn't know about this splash here. And this is a piece that I think was given to the Museum by Lucie Rie in the 1980s. And I suppose it does show her extraordinary strengths as a designer and the exquisiteness of the workmanship. I think it tells us something really interesting about her, that although she arrived in a country which was design-wise to a large extent somewhat anti-modern, fond of tradition - even in the world of studio pottery - [she] does this work, well, it would have seemed too much like industrial design I think. I know she found it very hard to work out where she fitted in, because this really belongs to the continental modern movement in design. Its extraordinary simplicity... although it's rounded there's a terrific sense of good design. And yes, absolute simplicity. And the fact that this kind of work wasn't particularly well-received when she showed it to British potters and museum people must have been wounding and puzzling. And I think the reason it wasn't liked was because it would have seemed kind of hard; a tenderness of touch that people expected of handmade pottery isn't there.
I guess this has been carefully turned and it's very finely, thinly potted. In a way it makes you think more of Greek ceramics, and I know her grandfather or her great uncle had a wonderful collection of black and red Greek pottery which she studied. [video clip starts] But I think there's something a bit limited about these two pieces in that this unsettling experience of coming to Britain actually made her a greater potter at the end of the day. She stuck to her own ideals and techniques, and there are a few pots she made shortly after she arrived in England that suggest she's slightly lost her way, but then she rediscovered her own voice. But she loosened up and became much bolder. And although she went on making tableware and so on, she also branched out into these majestic bottle forms and huge bowls that she'd push slightly so that they'd be asymmetrical. And I think that the tragedy of having to flee Vienna and come to Britain as a refugee can't be understated. [video clip ends]
But I think the old things that were going on here in studio pottery, while she didn't abandon everything she'd learnt and understood, actually affected her in quite a fruitful way. And I think those things are to do with being really ambitious about ceramics and a tenderness of touch, acertain degree of neo-primitivism that was characteristic of post-war British pottery... [with] being closer to the worlds of painting and sculpture and to the worlds of design, and this piece to me seems to come out, very much out of the world of Viennese design. It's all of a piece with the interior of her flat designed by Hans Pushcar which in fact was bodily brought over to Britain and rebuilt in Albion Mews. These are the sorts of things you would expect to see on the shelves, but then after a bit of time in England you see much wilder, more ambitious work from her hand. So I wonder why she gave this particular piece to the Museum.
MP: I suppose because they didn't have anything like it, they didn't have any early, pre English period [pieces].
TH: I wonder.
MP: And that strange wicker handle.
TH: Yes, it's very practical, sehr practische.
MP: Well, a potter would say that the wicker handle means there's less to break.
TH: I suppose that's right, yes. It is a kind of oriental isn't it? Although it would just normally be perhaps some curved bamboo, I don't know. Having made it in this kind of squared off way, again you get her great sense of design. But it's made me feel that coming to England wasn't all bad, that she was able to develop in more exciting directions, [to] become the truly great potter she became.