Towards a taxonomy of artisanal ceramic tableware: a practice-led enquiry into qualities and values in contemporary British and Japanese pottery
What goes into making pottery by hand in post-industrial societies? What stages in the making are responsible for the qualities we appreciate in handmade pottery? How do values such as tradition and craftsmanship relate to contemporary production?
The research is informed by ethnographic case studies of professional potters at work. My experience at the Leach Pottery in April and July 2016 offered an invaluable opportunity to follow the production team and document the making of the Standard Ware range. I used photographs and videos to capture actions on camera. This enabled me to analyse single gestures and conduct detailed interviews with the potters on their ways of making tableware by hand. The conversations with the Leach potters measured their awareness of their own making methods, often locating the origin of their gestures in their past training and experience. Learning to make Standard Ware mugs with the team inspired further reflections on the development of personal techniques.
The Leach Pottery is a key educational resource for ceramic training in the UK. My study shows the complex processes involved in making the Leach Standard Ware and, more generally, it traces craft knowledge and skills involved in the making of pottery.