Recently we opened a new display in the V&A Ceramics Galleries, Richard Batterham: Studio Potter (Room 146, 26 Nov 2021 – 26 Sept 2022.
In the making since 2019, this display showcases pots from the personal archive of studio potter Richard Batterham. Over his career, Richard made a habit of keeping back pots from his firings: both favourites and examples for himself of what not to do. Over time this became a large collection, that traces a lifetime’s worth of dedication to pottery. This display was developed with Richard (prior to his death in September 2021) and his family, and takes inspiration from Richard’s pottery and his home, to explore his diligent approach to making pots.
The 148 pots on loan for the display arrived at the V&A in early November (2021), and were individually unpacked and condition checked ready for installation week.
The first case to be installed was the ‘Early Years/At Home’ case. Because this case has the highest number of pots across the display, we decided to start here.
Richard started making pots aged 13, and after an apprenticeship at the Leach Pottery in St Ives, he moved to Dorset to set up his own pottery. One of the largest influences on Richard’s making was his family and home. His pottery was just across the road from his house, and many of the shapes and forms he made were inspired by needs at home. So, it was very important to show pots that Richard had used himself. Alluding to how Richard stored these in his house, this case is curated to look like a kitchen dresser: full to the brim with favourites used by the family.
Another distinguishing element of Richard’s work was his focus on making and refining a specific family of forms. Endlessly repeating these, he slowly allowed the pots to evolve, letting the process of making produce intricate variety.
To explore this, each shelf across the rest of the display is dedicated to a different form. The display includes 14 forms altogether, showing Richard’s mind and hands at work. Highlighting the finer details within each form, they reveal the on-going conscious (and unconscious) decision-making that went into making each individual pot.
The final component to the install was the largest pots on open display. Unsurprisingly, the feel of a pot was crucial to Richard. To experience it, to properly understand it, was to touch a pot and use it. So, whilst at the museum we could not literally achieve this, having these larger pots on open display does allow visitors to experience Richard’s work as closely as possible to how he intended. Without glass in-between, the texture of the glazes and surface decoration can, as Richard phrased it, ‘really sing’. Displayed on shelves, they appear as if they have just been taken out of the kiln.
Spanning the full breadth of Richard’s career, until his final firings in 2019, the pots that make up this display are both a record of the past and sources of inspiration for the future, and are the legacy of one of the most revered studio potters of his time.
Richard Batterham: Studio Potter is on display in Gallery 146, Ceramics Galleries, until 26 September 2022.
Supported by the Headley Trust
With thanks to the Joanna Bird Foundation