David Roberts – Naked Raku Ceramics

Craft Potters Association in London has recently held David Roberts’ ceramics exhibition, Evolving Forms.

David Roberts has been by many described as one of the most significant ceramic artists working in Europe today. The origins of his work go back to sixteenth century Japan and the Tea Ceremony. He’s the one being acknowledged to be responsible for introducing and promoting large scale raku ceramics in Europe.

All Roberts’ work is coil built. Some of the surfaces are burnished using various slips. Pieces are raku fired and completed by prolonged smoking and cooling process.

Roberts was born in Sheffield in 1947. He was first introduced to ceramics during education degree at Bretton Hall in West Yorkshire. He moved to raku in mid 1970s.

Over the years his ceramics evolved from two elemental forms – a closed containing shape derived from vessels for storage and an open bowl shape derived from vessels for presentation. There is a clear influence and reference to landscape and nature in many if his pieces.

He is not concerned with colour but with the way richness of tonal variation enhances and defines form. These surfaces are derived from two phenomena; the control of crackle patterns and spotting; resulting from the chemical and physical changes to materials that occur during the rapid firing and cooling of the Raku process.

David Roberts raku ceramics
David Roberts ceramics at Craft Potters Association
David Roberts raku ceramics exhibition

Roberts has been exhibiting in UK and internationally for number of years now. His ceramics is in collection at V&A Museum London, Scottish Museum Edinburgh, Ulster Museum Belfast, Museum of Wales, Bolton Art Gallery, Aberdeen Art Gallery, World Ceramics Centre Itcheon South Korea and many others.

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John Ward pottery exhibition

Yesterday I went to see John Ward’s pottery exhibition at the Erskin, Hall & Coe Gallery in London.

John Ward is regarded as one of Britain’s most important modern potters and also one of my personal favourites. There isn’t probably a contemporary pottery and ceramics book that doesn’t mention his name.

He was born in 1938 in London and studied at the Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts under Hans Coper and Lucie Rie. He set up his London workshop in 1971, whilst still teaching pottery. Finally, in 1979 he moved to Wales and focuses solely on making pots.

working method

John handbuilds most of his pieces. He starts with pinching out a base and and then adds coils of clay to shape a hollow vessel. He alters and shapes them at leatherhard stage, creating ridges or grooves between curved surfaces. To finish them off, he scrapes and partly burnishes them with a stone.

Ward uses mainly matt glazes, which he applies either by pouring, spraying or painting. He fires his work twice, in an electric kiln.

Ward’s ceramics is widely exhibited, including the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, National Museum of Wales, Fitzwilliam Museum.

What particularly appeals to me about John Ward’s style is the simplicity of both form and decoration, playfulness and texture. His pottery has this particular quiet but yet powerful elegance and subtlety. You can see clear reference to ancient Chinese and Egyptian pottery, as well as work of more contemporary studio ceramicists such as Hans Coper, Lucie Rie and Ian Godfrey.

John Ward sculptural stoneware vessels are distinguished for their simple yet sometimes complex structures and their minimalistic abstract and geometric decoration. There is a beautiful balance between dynamic form and a sense of stillness.

In his own words, it is not surprising that the colours he’s using (white, green, blue) are reflection of the surface colours and textures of where he’s living. Rocks, sea.

My favourite pieces are certainly his black and white vessels, as this is actually how I first became to know his work. But I also love all the shades of organic and subtle greens, off white and orche.

John Ward pottery exhibition at Erskin, Hall & Coe Gallery
John Ward pottery exhibition at Erskin, Hall & Coe Gallery
John Ward pottery exhibition at Erskin, Hall & Coe Gallery
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