Ancient Craft Set in Stoneware

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jeffery Muse

Amongst the oldest crafts known to man is that of the potter who, in ancient Chinese society, was revered.

His position in the tribe or village was second to the chief, as it was his job to create the storage vessels in which the summer harvest was stored, so that villagers would not starve during the harsh months of winter.

It is centuries old, and although the potter's art died a little after the Romans left these shores, it eventually resurfaced to branch out in more than one direction.

18th Century Chinese blue and white porcelain was soon copied so well it was preferred to the original in this country, and with added coloured enamels, the likes of Wedgwood, Spode, Derby and Chelsea became known throughout the world.

The craftsman potter, however, was altogether a different animal, and although many worked at the wheel to the end of their days, they never gained the recognition their work deserved.

Only in the 20th Century have these individualists been recognised for their unstinting labours, thanks to the sheer guts and dogged determination in the likes of Bernard Leach who, despite the political situation of the 1940s, strove to unite opposing nations in his own, very individual way.

His understanding and mastery of the skill of the Japanese potter enabled him to talk on equal terms with the finest ceramicists in Japan, and to educate the West in the art of Raku.

His stonewares remain at a premium but, more importantly, he encouraged a wellspring of stonewares that continues to flourish in every corner of the world. …