"Things of Beauty Growing": British Studio Pottery

For nearly a century, potters in Britain have invigorated traditional ceramic forms by developing or reinventing techniques, materials, and means of display. Drawing upon distinguished private collections and great museum collections in the United Kingdom, “Things of Beauty Growing”: British Studio Pottery examines the major typologies that have defined studio ceramics since the early twentieth century. The fully illustrated catalogue offers a fresh perspective on artists and works ranging from the seventeenth century to the present day, situating British studio ceramics within a deep historical context that features objects from Europe, Japan, and Korea, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

As British potters have continually revivified established ceramic forms they have actively maintained threads of continuity with the past, often transmitting knowledge directly through relationships and the exchange of important works. “Things of Beauty Growing” illuminates the international social networks and personalities that have shaped British studio pottery. The significance of both craft and collecting comes to the fore in this consideration of the works and lives of seminal figures such as Bernard Leach, Shōji Hamada, Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie, and Ladi Kwali, as well as potters working today, including Alison Britton, Magdalene Odundo, Edmund de Waal, and Julian Stair. The crucial contributions of collectors are also represented by John Driscoll, whose renowned collection of pottery grew out of friendships and scholarship alike. The collective effort has produced an active tradition of British studio pottery reflecting Michael Cardew’s evocative suggestion that “if you trust your materials and you trust your instincts, you will see things of beauty growing up in front of you.”

Glenn Adamson is Senior Research Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. Martina Droth is Deputy Director of Research and Curator of Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art. Simon Olding is Director of the Crafts Study Centre and Professor of Modern Craft at the University for the Creative Arts, UK.

This publication accompanies the exhibition Things of Beauty Growing”: British Studio Pottery​, on view at the Yale Center for British Art from September 14 to December 3, 2017, and at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from March 20 to June 18, 2018. 

Edited by Glenn Adamson, Martina Droth, and Simon Olding