The Unknown Craftsman

Form, function, utility - objects of use, elevated to a higher level through the pleasure they generate, while retaining their usefulness. The pleasing curves of a mug as you curl your fingers ‘round the handle, giving quiet satisfaction every time you take a sip. The feel of that wooden spoon - as you stir a steaming pot of something delicious - chosen above all seemingly identical others because somehow, it is different. It feels right. You enjoy using it, even for the most mundane of tasks. Items like this are pillars of the Mingei Philosophy - upholding and revering everyday makers of utsewa and utensils that become a form of high art that can be appreciated in the home.

The Leach Pottery - established in 1920 by Bernard Leach himself and Shoji Hamada - brought Japanese tradition to the Cornish bay of St. Ives. Leach spent many years in Japan, meeting artists such as Hamada, who later came with Leach to Cornwall. Together they built the first kiln and fired the first pots. They pioneered techniques, making glazes inspired by Japan and China, using Cornish clay and wood ash. The relationship between Western and Eastern approaches to philosophy, art, design and craft were pivotal to the studio pottery movement - feeding off each other to create an elevated form of utsewa. Hamada then took ‘the Leach tradition’ back to Mashiko, Japan - his commitment to locally sourced materials and the upholding of Mingei Philosophy principles, raised him up as a figurehead of Japanese folk crafts. 

Many apprentices come from all over the world to study and craft at the Leach Pottery - taking what they learn of craft styles and philosophy, and spreading it across the globe. The legacy of Leach and Hamada’s friendship is the platform it gives to new, unknown artists. The Leach Pottery is an example of unity - a place where everyone can become potters, artists, philosophers. An ever-evolving international space where people learn and teach and create, pushed forward by their passion for everyday objects. In 2022 a selection of residencies will be a celebration of the ongoing influence, inspiration and friendship that’s found in the world of pottery. Tomoo Hamada - the grandson of Shoji Hamada - will be potting, exhibiting and celebrating his heritage in St. Ives, as will two emerging potters from Mashiko.

A Leach potter will also be spending time in Mashiko - a cultural hub for potters - learning and exchanging ideas, thoughts and potential.  

Pottery supersedes the barriers of culture, language and politics - giving us something that we all can recognise, use and enjoy. Not only for what it looks like, but for what it does. 

For more info visit The Leach Pottery.

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