Having spent several years in the UK studying, Marina Bautier keeps a special connection to the British isle. This summer an opportunity unfolded to go back there for a week, to immerse herself in a ceramic course at the very core of the craft, Leach Pottery.
‘Going to Cornwall and discovering this beautiful place was almost like going on a kind of retreat, yet in a semi work environment. The relationship to craft is different in the UK than here in Belgium for example. Somehow they have a more contemporary approach, where design and craft is more closely connected. Having sold the work from a potter for a while, and looked at a lot of throwing, doing the course was a way for me to feel the material from the maker side. From looking at all this pottery, I really got into the envy of trying myself. There is something a little magical in throwing a cup starting from a ball of clay. And kind of addictive too’, says Marina.
Surrounded by the sea in the picturesque town of St.Ives, Leach Pottery remains an important destination for today's ceramists and anybody interested in the craft. Famous for bringing the Japanese ceramic skills to Europe, artist and ceramist Bernard Leach founded Leach Pottery in 1920. At the pottery, Leach developed and taught the techniques and ideologies he himself had learned by Japanese potters, working in Japan from 1909 to 1920.
As a spokesperson for craftsmanship, Leach was occupied by the question of what should come first in the makers process, theory or practice. Working with clay made Marina reflect on that very same topic:
‘I’m a pragmatic person, thinking my design through reasoning and practicality. I elaborate my design from sketches, then models and finally prototypes. Throwing clay is a nice spontaneous process. Where unexpected shapes arise from my beginner throwing. These unexpected results were sometimes very satisfying, leading up to new ideas. I thought this design process through the making was interesting, as opposed to elaborating the shape in my head.
My approach to ceramics was very different from my usual method. I am not really working with wood as a craftsmen but as a designer. With clay, I'm totally new to it. And when you start at throwing, you can hardly achieve what you have in mind, you kind of make what comes out from your hands. Not only because of the spontaneous aspect, but also just because of the lack of technique.’
The Japanese folk craft movement, also known as ‘mingei’, was developed during the 1920’s and 30’s and Bernard Leach played a key role in the movement. Inspired by the mingei philosophy, Leach developed a range of domestic pots for everyday use. This became known as the Leach Standard Ware. All thrown by hand, not afraid of showing the traces of their making and using local stoneware clay from the grounds of Cornwall, the range stayed in production up until Leach’s death in 1979. In recent years, the Standard Ware has been taken back into production, still handmade by a team of potters at Leach Pottery.
Coming back from the week in St.Ives, Marina Bautier decided to bring with her a selection of essential products from the Standard Ware range: plates, bowls and pots. These can now be found in the showroom and online.