Ceramike - Background Information

Janet Leach Retrospective

Mick Casson bowl Warren MacKenzie lidded jar Ken Matsuzaki yunomi

Crafts Study Centre, Farnham - March 2007

View across the exhibition
Stoneware bottle with poured decoration, 1980
Grogged porcelain vessels with poured slip decoration
Tall slab built vase with incised and painted decoration, ca. 1965
Anagama fired stoneware bottle, made in Tamba, Japan, 1969
Slip decorated stoneware bottle, ca. 1960
Exhibition case featuring large vessels and a slab dish

This major travelling exhibition provides an insight into the work of Janet Leach, the brash American wife of Bernard Leach who died ten years ago. The exhibition is curated by Emmanuel Cooper whose accompanying biography of Janet's life as a potter helps build a picture of how she achieved success in her chosen career and includes many photographs of her work.

I first saw this exhibition at Tate St. Ives where the pots were displayed in the beautiful long curved display case in the atrium overlooking Porthmeor Beach. The pots do not have such a great setting at the Crafts Study Center but unlike at the Tate, photography is allowed so I can share some images of the pots with you.

Exhibition case featuring large vessels and a slab dish
Conventional stoneware bottles and vases
Large stoneware vase, black body with slashes of white glaze, 1983
Stoneware bottle with white glaze slash
Stoneware bottle with painted slip decoration, ca. 1980
Grogged porcelain vessels with poured slip decoration, ca. 1980

The Janet Leach Symposium

This event took place on the afternoon of March 7th 2007 at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham, Hampshire. A panel of distinguised potters - Alison Brittan, Emmanuel Cooper and Edmund De Waal helped the 58 attendees build a picture Janet and her life as a potter. With Alison chairing, Emmanuel and Edmund gave presentations which provoked lively discussion between all present.

Like many people, my interest the the Leach family has centered on Bernard and David. I knew of Janet and had seen some of her pots but I knew little about her life. She first met Leach and Hamada on their tour of the USA in 1952 when they ran a two week course at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Janet was drawn to Hamada's work and spent time with himin Mashiko observing and doing menial tasks. Hamada was reluctant to accept Janet as a student so she took up his suggestion to visit the potteries of the Tamba region. She worked in Tamba in the mid-1950s before coming back to England and working in St. Ives for the rest of her life. Edmund said that Janet is still a legend in Tamba.

So although Bernard Leach also had a strong link with Japan, Janet's links are with Tamba rather than Mashiko and this is reflected in the style of her work. If Hamada had wanted to work with Janet rather than sending her away to Tamba maybe it would all have been different.

If you are interested in learning more of the life and work of Janet Leach, I suggest you purchase a copy of Emmanuel Cooper's book :