BARRY KRZYWICKI

Leach Pottery Residency - May 2015

When I first started working in ceramics, I longed to be able to do an apprenticeship.  Somehow I felt that this would be the best type of training available.  However, given the financial reality of owning a small house and having a job did not make this even remotely possible.  I settled on the plan of studying every summer with famous ceramic artists who came to teach at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado.

Over the years, the Leach tradition subtly influenced my way of working and aesthetic development.  Within the first year of making pots I attended a weekend workshop with Jeff Oestreich, who spoke about his experience as an apprentice with Bernard.  A few years later, John Leach came to Colorado to do a workshop which I travelled 6 hours to be able to attend.

In 1989 I had the good fortune to be selected as the studio assistant for David Leach, while he taught a two week workshop at Anderson Ranch.  I had the opportunity to watch him carefully and deliberately flute pots and teach the technique to the students.  After trying it briefly I decided that it wasn’t for me.

Later on, I had another opportunity to work as an assistant with other Leach apprentices, Warren MacKenzie and John Reeve, during a joint workshop they taught in 1991 in Denver.  Their work was fresh, not deliberate and quickly thrown.  All of this a result of their training at the Leach pottery

Other British potters have also left an impact on the development of my work.   I attended weekend workshops given in Colorado by Clive Bowen as well as Mick and Sheila Casson.  They also referred to the importance of the Leach tradition in ceramics in the UK and elsewhere.

A myriad of other experiences and fortuitous opportunities also had an impact on my ceramic education.  In 2001, while teaching at a community college, I was asked whether I’d like to take students to Spain on a study tour.  I developed a Spanish ceramic art history course and led tours in the summer of 2002 and 2003.  I became very interested in Spanish lusterware and this led to other opportunities on the Iberian peninsula.  In 2003 I met the Jaume Coll, the director of the National Ceramics Museum in Valencia, Spain at a conference.  During my next visit he introduced me to Alejandro Barbera, the last potter in Spain who fired his lusterware kiln with wild rosemary.  This was an extraordinary opportunity and I went back to visit Alejandro many times and have drafted an article in Spanish, yet unpublished.  In 2010 I had the chance to visit Alan Caiger Smith, after a brief correspondence, acknowledging how useful his writings had been concerning the impact Moorish ceramics on the history of European majolica and lusterware.  In 2009 I gave a lecture at the Denver Art Museum about the history of Spanish lusterware from Manises, Spain.

I continued to travel to Spain every year since leading students on the tours and have met many friends through the incredible network that ceramics offers.  I have visited Talavera de la Reina many times which has been an important centre for the production of Spanish majolica since the 15th century.  In 2011, after many months of study, I gave another lecture at the Denver Art Museum about the history of majolica produced in Talavera.

When I was 40, I had enrolled in a graduate level ceramic course with Betty Woodman.  I used the experience as a litmus test to decide whether to resign from my job and attend graduate school in ceramics.  My friends who had a MFA degree thought I was crazy, saying that unless I was planning to teach, the degree would not really benefit me.  I now see this as trying to fill some sort of need to validate my career path, much like the idea of doing an apprenticeship served when I first began potting. 

After deciding not to pursue graduate studies, I decided that the time and funds necessary to pay for the degree could be used to visit folk potteries instead.  I saved up my vacation time and took long trips.  My travels have taken me to folk pottery villages from the Amazon rainforest in Peru to southern Spain, as well as in Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Japan, India and Thailand. 

I retired 5 years ago from my job in Public Health, having had the good luck of working part-time for 15 years.  During this time I worked in the studio evenings and weekends whenever possible.  I also have had experience teaching, even thought I have no formal degree in ceramics, first at local arts centres and later at community colleges and even a Buddhist university.

I first came to St Ives in December of 2013 and my friend Jill Fanshawe Kato told me I had to meet John Bedding.  We spent an evening together chatting about his experiences at the pottery.  She also sent an introduction to the Pottery, asking to please show me around during my visit.  It was during this time that Roelof suggested that I might consider coming to work at the Pottery.  What was so refreshing when I met both Roelof and John was their focus on working in the field, not what university they attended and how many top notch galleries carried their work, which is the focus of many young graduates today in the US.

I am very excited to finally be here!  The staff and apprentices have been extremely kind and helpful and have made sure I have found whatever I need to do my work.  I hope that I can somehow contribute something significant in return.

Barry Krzywicki   May, 2015