‘It’s like playing with mud’: how pottery is enjoying a revival

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For Ellie Woods, the attraction is creating thing beauteous but functional – positive the childlike joyousness of getting her hands grubby.

“I deliberation it’s the hands-on portion of it that truly appeals,” said Woods, a 25-year-old apprentice astatine the Leach Pottery successful the Cornish municipality of St Ives. “I emotion the information that radical are going to clasp and usage our work; it’s truthful intimate, much intimate than looking astatine a coating oregon portion of sculpture.”

Pottery is enjoying a boom. Applications for apprenticeships and night-school courses are pouring successful and precocious thoroughfare studios that springiness radical the accidental to enactment with clay are popping up crossed the UK. Sales of high-end wares produced with emotion and attraction astatine places similar the Leach Pottery are soaring, with younger radical prepared to put successful items they volition unrecorded with for years.

A report from the Crafts Council concluded that the appetite for British trade had ne'er been greater. Highlighting shows specified arsenic the Great Pottery Showdown, it said that three-quarters of respondents to a survey it had conducted were buying British trade and a 5th of radical said they would wage to be a trade workshop. It pointed retired that the intelligence wellness benefits of taking portion successful pastimes specified arsenic pottery was 1 its large attractions.

The Craft Potters Association has seen its rank astir double, from 1,000 successful 2020 to much than 1,800 now. At the Leach pottery its 2022 courses sold retired wholly wrong days of being advertised.

Meanwhile cinema audiences looking for a alteration of gait from Bond oregon superheroes are turning to The Colour Room, the movie astir the beingness of Clarice Cliff, who roseate from humble beginnings to go a celebrated ceramicist.

Libby Buckley, pottery manager  astatine  the Leach Pottery workplace  successful  St Ives, Cornwall.
Libby Buckley, pottery manager astatine the Leach Pottery workplace successful St Ives, Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

Libby Buckley, the manager astatine Leach Pottery, believes the interaction of Covid, and people’s tendency to find caller ways of living, is an important origin successful the detonation of interest.

“I deliberation the thought of trade and making has truly taken disconnected successful the past mates of years,” she said. “Some of that is down to Covid. People who walk their clip connected a machine each time similar the thought of having a go, getting their hands dirty. The large happening astir pottery is that it’s truly playing with mud. It’s precise tactile.”

Buckley besides suggested that radical had spent truthful overmuch clip indoors gazing astatine their surroundings and mundane objects they had travel to the decision that they mightiness arsenic good wage a small other for truly beauteous pieces. “People are realising it’s bully to person things you emotion astir you.”

Hyosun Kim, creator  successful  residence for Leach100 astatine  Leach Pottery workplace  successful  St Ives, Cornwall.
Hyosun Kim, creator successful residence for Leach100 astatine Leach Pottery workplace successful St Ives, Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

In the 1960s successful bohemian enclaves similar St Ives, pottery became portion of the counter-culture, a hunt for an earthier, alternate mode of living, and Buckley feels that is happening again. “We’re speechmaking a batch astir the Great Resignation. So galore radical are re-evaluating their lives.”

The Leach pottery, experimental and progressive, was founded a period agone successful St Ives by Bernard Leach and Shōji Hamada. It was opened arsenic a museum, store and workplace successful 2008 but has sometimes been overlooked by culture-living visitors who are drawn to different creation attractions successful the municipality specified arsenic the glitzier beachside Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth depository and sculpture garden. Not now.

An accumulation called Clay and Community was launched connected Friday pulling unneurotic a dizzying scope of activities and events that person tally arsenic portion of celebrations to mark 100 years of creativity astatine the Leach Pottery. It features radical, brilliantly method pieces by professionals but besides work by schoolchildren and keen amateurs who attended “Raku parties” to marque pots utilizing the accelerated and melodramatic method of firing that inspired Leach.

Callum Trudgeon, a accumulation   potter and erstwhile  apprentice astatine  Leach Pottery workplace  successful  St Ives, Cornwall.
Callum Trudgeon, a accumulation potter and erstwhile apprentice astatine Leach Pottery workplace successful St Ives, Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

The involvement successful Leach was highlighted this week astatine an auction of pottery astatine Phillips successful London, erstwhile his works were being snapped up by collectors from crossed the globe for 5 times their estimates.

John Bedding, an honorary potter astatine the Leach studio, said helium was pleased much radical were taking an involvement successful Leach and having a spell astatine pottery themselves, though helium said: “There whitethorn beryllium rather a batch of wheels connected the secondhand marketplace erstwhile radical realise it isn’t that easy.”

Simon Winn, 50, from Cornwall, who works for a pharmaceutical company, is 1 of those who has managed to get a spot connected a people astatine the Leach Pottery adjacent year. He said helium was looking guardant to it with a substance of excitement and trepidation.

“It feels much accessible. Anyone tin beryllium astatine a pottery wheel, person a spell and travel distant with thing adjacent if it’s not pretty,” helium said. “I similar the thought of making thing utilitarian and, of course, getting my hands dirty, making a mess.”