Ceramike - Background Information

Leach Pottery - 1928 Brochure

Bernard Leach bowl with fritillary decoration Janet Leach vase Bill Marshall vase with hakeme decoration

This article is written around a brochure issued by the Leach Pottery back in 1928, I start with some background information.

By 1928 the Leach Pottery had been in operation in St. Ives for 8 years. These were difficult times, following the death of local benefactor Frances Horne the St. Ives Handicraft Guild had been closed and with it went the chance of more funding for the pottery. Although Leach still exhibited in London, his sales in Japan dried up when the Tokyo was flattened in an earthquake which killed over two million people.

At the pottery, Leach lost his experienced co-workers - Michael Cardew had left in 1926 to establish Winchcombe Pottery and Norah Braden moved on to work with Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie in Coleshill. The pottery was running at a loss so Leach had to diversify. As well as producing mainly stoneware pottery, he invited the public to take part in raku firing events and started producing tiles which he decorated with a range of designs.

Leach managed to soldier on and in May 1929 the return of Hamada inspired Leach on to focus on slipware.

Although 1928 wasn't memorable for pottery in St. Ives, it was the year that the artists Ben Nicholson and Christoper Wood first came to St. Ives and discovered the primitive painter Alfred Wallis but that is another story.


Leach Pottery - Woodcut print showing a Raku kiln being fired with the three chambed climbing kiln behind,

Woodcut print showing a Raku kiln being fired with the three chambed climbing kiln behind, scanned from John Edgeler's excellent Slipware and St. Ives book


Here I have reproduced the information shown in the 1928 brochure.

The Leach Pottery, St. Ives.

Origin and Date

This Pottery was started by Bernard Leach, and his Japanese assistant Shoji Hamada, in the autumn of 1920. Mr. Leach was born in the Far East and after finishing his education in England returned there in 1909 as a painter and etcher. He took up the study of the potter's craft under the sixth Kenzan in 1912. From this time he gathered traditional lore from every availuble source and put it to the test of fire in his own kilns near Tokio. The resulting pots were exhibited, together with his drawings and etchings, with an increasing success year by year. Japanese artists and art-lovers alike have shown a sincere and lasting regard for his art and several exhibitions of his work, since his return, have been held by them. The cause of this appreciation has been stated by Japanese critics to be the knitting together in his work of the spirit of Eastern and Western art.

Aims and Objects

It is Mr. Leach's chief endeavour at St. Ives to produce with local material a hand-made high temperature stoneware of personal design resembling in craft the early Chinese and Korean work of the Sung and Korai periods. If it be asked why Mr. Leach chiefly follows the Chinese and Korean wares in technique, the answer may be put in the words of the Keeper of the Ceramics of the British Museum (in writing of "Sung" Pottery), because the accumulated experience of many centuries had culminated in technical perfection. The potter was complete master of all departments of his work, and his wares had a refinement of drawing and coloration, of potting and finish, such as the world had never seen before, and under modern industrial conditions, can never hope to see again."


The measure of success of Mr. Leach's efforts since his return may be gauged by the fact that examples of his work have been purchased or the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Boston Fine Arts Museum, Manchester, Cardiff and Aberystwyth, Leipzig, and for many private collections.

Types of Ware

Besides these "Collector's" pieces the Leach Pottery has, after eight years of experiment, begun to standardise both in STONE-WARE and in SLIP-WARE. The generous and indigenous shapes and patterns of this our pre-industrial pottery, together with its warm cream and amber colouring, cause Mr. Leach to regard it as the backbone of English pottery. He feels that the loss is great when so fine a memory vanishes, and he has attempted to revive it for the sake of people who like himself want to enjoy the use of their kitchen crocks again.








austere, with quiet & varied texture

5/- to £10





1/- to £1


In answer to constant demand the Leach Pottery is now able to offer 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 hand-made and painted tiles, in both wares, at a cost, which works out per fireplace of 50 to 150 tiles, of £5 to £10.


The clays used are mostly obtained locally. The Kiln,which is probably the only one ot its kind in England, is a traditional Sino-Japanese climbing Kiln. It is fired with wood. When fully packed it holds about 1000 pieces in three chambers and takes about 30 hours to fire up to 1350oC.

Visiting Hours

Mr. Leach and his co-workers are glad to demonstrate to visitors on Saturday mornings. The Show Rooms are open daily except on Saturday afternoons. During August demonstrations of Raku making are held on Thursday afternoons at which visitors may decorate their own pots and see them glazed and fired.

The Pottery Cottage

The Cottage, which has been building for some time past, adjoining the Pottery, has been completed. It is being mainly furnished with the work of certain artist craftsmen whose headquarters are at THE NEW HANDWORKERS' GALLERY, 14 PERCY STREET, TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD, LONDON, W1. This has been done with the object of showing how the Leach Pottery will combine with other modern house-crafts.


It is hoped that in the summer the "Teas" which have been provided in connection with the Thursday afternoon DEMONSTRATIONS will be given in the new Cottage, and that any intending visitors who may wish on other days have Tea at the Pottery can arrange in advance to do so by Telephoning St. Ives 174x6.


Mr. Leach takes two or three apprentices at a time for periods not usually less than a year. He also gives short practical courses during the Easter and Summer holidays. Information regarding these will be sent on request.

Agencies and Exhibitions

The Leach Pottery has agencies at St. Ives (three), Newquay, Hove, Oxford, Cambridge, Bournemouth, Broadway, Chipping Campden, London (six), &e. The picked pieces of the year are exhibited at the Chief English and International Craft Exhibitions.