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In the footsteps of Bernard Leach

FOR any potter or ceramicist, the words ‘Leach Pottery’ have a magical ring, something akin to ‘Wembley Stadium’ and what that name means to a professional footballer.

Last week, my wife Joan and I dropped into the famous St Ives pottery for a ‘hands on’ ceramics session under the supervision of staff and apprentices.

There we produced thumb pots out of St Agnes raku clay. Though extremely modest creations alongside those of the Leach masters, our tiny bowls have become features in our sitting room. They stand on pit-fired tiles by Mary Kaun English, a Californian potter who recently moved to Cornwall from Surrey.

The Leach Pottery offered its free ‘hands on’ sessions as part of the St Ives September Festival, which covers everything from music to theatre to story-telling and film-making. Besides being one of the world’s most beautiful towns, St Ives is also one of its most vibrant art colonies.

Alongside the Leach Pottery is its gallery and museum, featuring works by its legendary founder Bernard Leach, his talented Texan wife Janet, his business partner Shoji Hamada, the first Leach apprentice William Marshall and kiln man turned master potter Trevor Corser.

When you see their stuff, you understand what real studio pottery is all about. However, it was satisfying to have created a pot of any kind on such hallowed ground.

* NOTE: the finer of the two pots is my wife’s. I plead guilty to the thicker, lumpier product in the foreground.

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